Tuesday, May 26, 2020
May 26, 2020

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New Huskies offensive coordinator facing extra challenges

UW had yet to start spring practices when everything stopped

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SEATTLE — Before college football was thrown off course by the coronavirus pandemic, new Washington offensive coordinator John Donovan was already stepping into a challenging situation.

It had been nearly five years since he last coached on a college campus and he was installing a new offense for the Huskies without knowing who his quarterback would be when the new season rolled around in September.

Clearly, there were plenty of tasks on Donovan’s to-do list before COVID-19 altered everything.

“Everyone has to deal with it and it’s not the perfect scenario,” Donovan said during a conference call Friday. “At the same time, I think the time we have to kind of go through a little more detail at a slower pace, that’s actually been good.”

Donovan was a surprise choice to take over Washington’s offense. An offseason of change for the Huskies saw the unexpected retirement of Chris Petersen as head coach, the promotion of Jimmy Lake to take over the program and his decision not to retain offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.

Donovan was last an offensive coordinator in college in 2015 at Penn State. He was there for two seasons after spending three seasons in the same role at Vanderbilt.

After being fired at Penn State, Donovan spent four seasons working on the offensive staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Donovan thought his time coaching at the college level was over before Washington called.

Donovan called it “pretty random.”

“I remember growing up in the 90s just watching Washington on TV, and I know the reputation of the place as a school and as a football program. It was a tough program and they’re always in the hunt and it’s a great city,” he said. “So for me, that’s not a hard sell.”

Next came the hard part. For the first time since 2015, the Huskies will go into a season with uncertainty at quarterback. Jake Browning held the job for four years and Jacob Eason was the starter last year before declaring early for the NFL draft.

The only quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass in a game is Jacob Sirmon, who attempted three last season. Sirmon is expected to compete for the starting job with Dylan Morris and Ethan Garbers whenever the season starts.

Hampering the QB decision is Washington’s lack of spring practice. Washington was one of the few Power Five programs that had not started spring practice before all sporting activities on college campuses came to a halt.

Instead of a month getting to see how well players were retaining his offense, and more specifically seeing his quarterback options on the field, Donovan has tried to take all those lessons online.

“It’s nice to know that you’re walking into a situation with a guy that’s got experience, and all that,” Donovan said. “At the same time, I think it’s also good for those guys and really the rest of the guys that I’m coming in with a clean slate. And I’m going to coach them hard, and teach them and they’re gonna battle it out.”

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