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Penn State Football: Offensive Line Chugging Along As Smith Guides And Hand Leads

by on April 10, 2014 4:00 PM

Donovan Smith knows everyone is talking about the offensive line.

His head coach has mentioned the offensive line directly as something of a work in progress, the departure of John Urschel and Ty Howle to their respective futures along with Miles Dieffenbach's injury has essentially made the unit's development a mandatory storyline this spring. It's not surprising that's what everyone is asking about.

But Smith also knows that he has a better feel for his unit than the reporters and fans who have seen only snippets of what the team has to offer the college football world in 2014.

"It's football. It goes back and forth," Smith said on Thursday. "I'm pretty sure there's times where (the defensive line) make us look terrible and times we make them look terrible. That's what practice is all about."

With Dieffenbach's injury keeping him out of the rotation, Smith is now the most elder statesmen on the offensive line. With new faces to his right and an oncoming defender to his left it's just matter of taking care of the fundamentals and taking things a day at a time. Look at the big picture and you are overwhelmed, worry about the moments in front of you and progress is made.

That becomes even more important as Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey make the switch to the offensive line from the defensive side of the ball.

"I kind of get ahead of myself in terms of knowing what the defense may bring," Smith said. "Coming from defense it takes time to take it all in. For me, it's just not really slowing down my pace but remembering that I don't have someone who's as experienced next to me."

Behind all of this development and change is new offensive line coach Herb Hand. Like many things to change over the past few seasons, Hand's ability to nod his head to Kanye West and Jay Z's "Who Gon Stop Me?" at practice last Saturday was as much visual whiplash considering all of his predecessors as it was a sign of the changing times. That ability to relate to his players isn't overlooked and it's certainly appreciated.

"We all love him. He's a very emotional guy. He loves the game and is very passionate about the game of football," Smith said.

"He takes pride in how the offensive line blocks and honing in on techniques and paying attention to details. Everyone has bought into his philosophy here. Coach Hand is very passionate about it and he's younger. He can connect with the younger generation better. It just makes it that much better."

"It's a total learning experience. That's what the spring and the summer is for. Come fall we'll brush it all up and then when the season comes we'll go full steam ahead." 

Penn State fans might be concerned about the offensive line and the concern is not without cause, but like Jay-Z said as his verse of the song blasted throughout Holuba Hall last weekend:

"It wouldn’t be wise to bet against the kid."

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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