Penn State Football

Penn State football: Left tackle Donovan Smith to forgo senior season, intends to enter NFL Draft

Donovan Smith and Christian Hackenberg hand out a Penn State football poster to a driver on College Avenue in downtown State College on Wednesday, July 30.
Donovan Smith and Christian Hackenberg hand out a Penn State football poster to a driver on College Avenue in downtown State College on Wednesday, July 30. CDT photos

Penn State’s most experienced offensive lineman eligible to return next season won’t be back.

Donovan Smith has informed the team he will enter the NFL Draft.

“It seems like it was yesterday that I was sitting at the kitchen table talking with the greatest college football coach in history, Joseph Vincent Paterno,” Smith said in a release. “I promised him and my family that I would get my degree. After achieving one of my life goals of receiving a degree from The Pennsylvania State University, I feel it’s time to continue the pursuit of my dream of becoming a NFL player. The past four years have been a physical and emotional roller coaster, but have ultimately made me a better man.”

Smith received his degree in criminology earlier this year.

A redshirt junior, Smith was a mainstay along the offensive line over the past three seasons. He started 31 games at left tackle in that span and was a preseason candidate for the Outland Trophy. A former standout at Owings Mills High School (Md.), Smith quickly earned a starting spot protecting quarterback Matt McGloin’s blind side in 2012. He continued to play the left side, protecting Christian Hackenberg the last two seasons.

But Smith missed two games this season with an injury sustained in the Ohio State game. He returned for the Temple game and played the final four games.

“We want to thank Donovan and wish him all the best at the next level,” Penn State coach James Franklin said in a release. “We appreciate his contributions to the program and his dedication to earning his degree this semester, doing so in three-and-a-half years.”

Penn State will return three starters to the offensive line next season. Center Angelo Mangiro, guard Brian Gaia and tackle Andrew Nelson will all be back in addition to center Wendy Laurent and guards Brendan Mahon and Derek Dowrey.

Nelson played left tackle when Smith was injured for two games this season and could move to the left side permanently next season.

QB recruit to enroll early

Penn State signed quarterback Tommy Stevens, the university announced Monday.

Stevens, who played at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, is listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and was rated a three-star prospect by all four major recruiting services.

He will enroll at Penn State in January and be eligible to participate in all spring activities. Stevens joins junior college offensive tackle Paris Palmer and freshman offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins to enroll in January.

A dual-threat quarterback ranked in the top 20 at his position by 24/7 Sports and, Stevens completed 60 percent of his passes and averaged 172 passing yard per game as a senior. He threw 16 touchdown passes and rushed for 10 more scores while adding 842 yards on the ground.