- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Penn State has picked up its first 2013 commitment since the NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the program in late July.
That is a significant title for three-star defensive back Jordan Smith (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson), even if he does not see it that way.
"The only thing it means is this is an opportunity for me to go out and show everyone what I can do, that this is a blessing from God," Smith said while driving back from Penn State late Saturday evening. "... I can't speak to the sanctions. All I know is Penn State is my dream school and the place I wanted to go since Day One."
The commitment from Smith, who will play either corner or safety at Penn State, brings some much-needed good news for a program hit hard by transfers and decommitments over the past few weeks. The Nittany Lions class stood at nine before the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Smith committed. Penn State suffered four decommitments since the sanctions were announced, including the biggest to date earlier this week.
Over the past six days alone, the Nittany Lions received decommitments from ESPN 150 offensive tackle Dorian Johnson and three-star prospects Zach Bradshaw and Will Fuller. Four-star corner Ross Douglas decommitted minutes after the NCAA hammered Penn State.
The NCAA levied a four-year bowl and massive scholarship reductions among several other penalties on July 23.
That is a minor detail for Smith, who is focusing on the positives the coaching staff and academics present at Penn State.
"The first thing that impressed me the most is the academics. Academics are one thing that won't change. A degree from Penn State speaks volumes," Smith said.
"The coaching staff has to be one of the best in the nation right now. They teach the players and allow them to have fun."
As a child, Smith used to dream of wearing blue and white and playing in front of a crowd of more than 100,000 fans.
"While playing in the back yard, you're imagining you're part of a team," he said. "Ever since those days, I always envisioned myself in a Penn State uniform and playing in Happy Valley."
Buffalo, Colorado, Illinois and Kansas also offered Smith, and as a player with other BCS options, many will question Smith's decision to play for a program that cannot go to a bowl game until 2016.
Linebacker Brennan Franklin (Peoria, Ariz./Centennial) was the Lions' first commitment since the sanctions, but he is a member of the 2012 class.
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