Left tackle Donovan Smith embraces roll as 'boss hog'

Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith. (Gene J. Puskar/AP file photo)

The youngest hog on Penn State’s offensive line is currently the Boss Hog. 

Donovan Smith, a redshirt sophomore, is currently recognized by offensive line coach Mac McWhorter as the standout hog. 

“The Boss Hog is an offensive line thing,” Smith said. “Coach Mac calls us the hogs. The Boss Hog is just playing to what his expectations are. There’s some other stuff that goes into it in terms of physicality, domination, don’t miss assignments, his expectations of how you should have played.”

The offensive line struggled early last Saturday against the Eagles, but settled into a groove as the game gradually developed into a blowout. Relatively, quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s found his comfort zone in the pocket, overthrowing his wide receivers less. 

Smith protects Hackenberg’s blind side, so the left tackle plays a key role in fostering his young quarterback’s pocket presence. If Hackenberg feels confident that he won’t get hit from behind, then he avoids frantic decisions that may lead to turnovers. 

Coach Bill O’Brien said Smith has developed a newfound consistency at his position.

“He's a big guy, 315 pounds, who's very nimble and very athletic,” O’Brien said. “He’s a smart guy and an instinctive player, too. So he's a guy that has done a nice job for us.

“Coming into this year, he’s another guy that I think he’s taken his game to the next level.”

For Smith and the hogs to maintain an impenetrable wall on the line, they have to adapt when the Nittany Lions play in their NASCAR offense. When the Lions aren’t huddling, Smith said the hogs lose that crucial 10 to 15 seconds to catch their breath. 

“NASCAR, you just keep going, going, going,” Smith said. “Any team that runs a fast no-huddle will tell you you will get tired. Definitely, a huddle slows the game down and gives you time to catch your breath.”

On new drives, McWhorter can compensate by giving reps to some of his second-string lineman, such as Wendy Laurent, Eric Shrive, Angelo Mangiro and Garry Gilliam or Adam Gress (depending on the game).

Smith, who stays on the field for the most part, said it’s easy for him to adjust to new guys beside him. 

“We do a good job during the week making sure these guys work together in practice,” Smith said. “I don’t think there’s a big problem as many may think. We communicate right off the bat fine. It’s just all about communication.”