The University of Washington hired John Donovan, who spent that past four seasons as an offensive assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars, to be its offensive coordinator on Friday. (Associated Press)

The University of Washington hired John Donovan, who spent that past four seasons as an offensive assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars, to be its offensive coordinator on Friday. (Associated Press)

UW hires Jaguars assistant Donovan as offensive coordinator

The 45-year-old has experience as a college coordinator at both Penn State and Vanderbilt.

By Lauren Kirschman / The News Tribune

SEATTLE — Washington hired John Donovan as its new offensive coordinator on Friday.

Donovan, who has spent the past four seasons on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive staff, has 19 years of collegiate coaching experience. He was the offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt for three years and had the same role at Penn State for two years.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of such a great university, with unbelievable football tradition, like the University of Washington,” Donovan said. “Thanks to Coach (Jimmy) Lake and everyone involved for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Former Boise State quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was previously considered the favorite to take over for offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan, who was let go when Lake took over for former head coach Chris Petersen after the Las Vegas Bowl. But new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy wanted Moore to remain on staff, and he decided to stay.

Donovan, 45, was the assistant running backs coach for the Jaguars. He previously spent two seasons with the quarterbacks (2017-18) and one with the tight ends.

“I have been working with John since our time together at Georgia Tech, and it’s been a privilege to see how much he’s grown as a coach over the past 20 years,” Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement. “He is a diligent worker and has had success coaching offenses in the collegiate ranks at Penn State and Vanderbilt, and I look fowrard to seeing the impact he makes at Washington.”

Donovan was hired as Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator and assistant running backs coach when James Franklin was named head coach prior to the 2011 season. In his three years at Vanderbilt, the Commodores had three of their top four total yardage marks in school history. Vanderbilt had a school-record 4,936 yards in 2012 and averaged 30.1 points per game, the first team in program history to top 30 points per game.

Donovan moved to Penn Sate with Franklin in 2014, but was let go after the 2015 season. The Nittany Lions’ offense ranked 101 out of 128 FBS schools that year and averaged 23.7 points per game last season. They were 82nd in the country in passing yards per game (214.5) and 107th in rushing yards per game (133.9).

In 2014, Penn State averaged 20.6 points and 335.5 yards per game, which included 233.4 passing yards and 101.9 rushing yards. Franklin hired Joe Moorhead to replace Donovan and the Nittany Lions averaged 37.6 points in 2016 and 41.1 points in 2017.

In his first season at UW, Donovan will be without starting quarterback Jacob Eason, running back Salvon Ahmed and tight end Hunter Bryant. All three left school early to enter the 2020 NFL draft. The Huskies will also be replacing three offensive lineman, including center Nick Harris and left tackle Trey Adams.

“Coach Donovan has a great deal of experience at both the college and NFL levels, learning from a lot of great offensive minds about coaching the kind of aggressive, pro-style offense we want to play here at Washington,” Lake said in a release. “From my own experience, I know how much a coach can learn and grow by spending significant time in the NFL. I’m excited for him to get to Seattle and get started.”

Donovan played defensive back at Johns Hopkins from 1993 to 1996 and finished his college career with 12 interceptions. He had a brief internship with the Carolina Panthers before beginning his coaching career as an assistant defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt in 1997. He then spent the next three seasons as a graduate assistant at Georgia Tech.

Donovan was hired as a recruiting coordinator at Maryland following the 2000 season. He stayed in that role for four seasons before taking over as the running backs coach in 2005. He served as the quarterbacks coach from 2006-07 before returning to work with the running backs from 2008-10.

Donovan is a River Edge, N.J., native who earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Johns Hopkins and has a master’s in economics from Georgia Tech.

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