Apr 12, 2014; State College, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions offensive coordinator/tight ends coach John Donovan high-fives guard Derek Dowrey (53) in the second quarter of the Blue White spring game at Beaver Stadium. The Blue team defeated the White team 37-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren- USA TODAY Sports

Penn State Football Coach Profile: John Donovan


In VBR’s continuing series of Penn State coach profiles, today’s focus is on offensive coordinator John Donovan. Like several others on the coaching staff, Donovan worked under James Franklin at Vanderbilt and then headed with him to Happy Valley in January. In his position at Penn State, Donovan is in charge of coordinating the offense as well as coaching the tight ends.

Donovan’s first year at Penn State marks his 18th overall as a coach, with the majority of that being on the offensive side of the ball.

Before coming to Happy Valley, Donovan spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Vanderbilt. Under him, the Commodores enjoyed their most productive offensive seasons in school history. His offense set a school record in 2012 with 4,936 yards of total offense and averaged 30.0 points a game for the first time ever. That was followed up with an average of 30.1 points a game in 2013.

Running back Zac Stacy rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2011 and 2012, becoming the first Commodore in history to accomplish that feat.

Prior to his time at Vanderbilt, Donovan was at the University of Maryland from 2001-2010. He worked alongside Franklin while at Maryland in 2000-2004 and from 2008-2010. That’s when Franklin took him along to coach the Commodores. Donovan also spent time at Georgia Tech and Villanova.

This season at Penn State, Donovan gets the opportunity to coach a potent offense led by superstar quarterback Christian Hackenberg. He’ll also have the luxury of a solid running game and talented, pass-catching tight ends who can open up the middle of the field.

A native of River Edge, NJ, Donovan received a sociology degree from Johns Hopkins and a master’s in economics from Georgia Tech. While at Johns Hopkins, he played football as a defensive back and had 12 career interceptions.

Coaching Experience

2011-13 – Vanderbilt (offensive coordinator/running backs)                                                                                                                             2008-10  – Maryland (running backs)
2006-07 – Maryland (quarterbacks)
2005 – Maryland (running backs)
2001-04  – Maryland (assistant recruiting coordinator)
1998-2000 – Georgia Tech (offensive graduate assistant)
1997 – Villanova (assistant secondary)

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