Breakout players for 2013: No. 1

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
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Zach ZwinakAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith (76) blocks Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor (53) and opens up a big hole for running back Zach Zwinak (28).
Over this past week, NittanyNation has counted down the five Penn State players who weren't named to the All-Big Ten teams and are poised for breakout seasons in 2013.

The No. 1 breakout player: LT Donovan Smith, rising redshirt sophomore

When Smith was first recruited by Penn State, the staff playfully pulled out the chair he was about sit on. "That was Levi Brown's chair," former assistant Bill Kenney told him.

Kenney and the staff explained how Brown was picked fifth overall in the 2007 draft, and they emphasized just how much Smith's playing style reminded them of the Arizona Cardinal.

Kenney may no longer be with the team, but it's still pretty evident this staff still thinks highly of Smith -- and that he has a bright future ahead of him. At 6-foot-5, 316 pounds, Smith is already close to the prototypical size for an NFL tackle. And, even though he's been on campus for just two years, he's already dripping with NFL potential.

The Maryland product was limited in 2012 because of a combination of injuries. He missed a lot of preseason practice with a lingering hamstring injury, missed two games and also saw limited time when he broke his hand and was forced to wear a cast.

Smith wasn't 100 percent for nearly his entire redshirt freshman campaign. If he stays healthy, with another offseason of training under Mac McWhorter and Craig Fitzgerald, he could be the next big -- pardon the pun -- thing in State College.

He's flexible, athletic, powerful and has put in the work. He's added about 51 pounds since high school, and it's a distinct possibility he could be the best player on the line next season. He's likely to leave Penn State with a few All-Big Ten selections -- and next year could only be the beginning.

Quotables: "He's an excellent young player. He's a left tackle that's athletic and big and tough, and you know he's had some bumps and bruises over the last couple games." -- Bill O'Brien

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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