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Wisconsin football assistant coach profiles: inside linebackers coach Mark D'Onofrio

An overview of Wisconsin assistant coach Mark D'Onofrio, who enters his first season as the inside linebackers coach for the Badgers.
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The Wisconsin Badgers football coaching staff underwent an uncharacteristically high amount of change since the team beat Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 30.

With several new coaches on the staff, and multiple retained coaches shifting responsibilities, All Badgers will spend the next week providing an overview of each position coach on head coach Paul Chryst's coaching staff.

Previously covered position coaches:

Next up in our rolling assistant coach series, we take a deeper look at the newest member of the staff, inside linebackers coach Mark D'Onofrio.

Name: Mark D'Onofrio

Role: Inside linebackers coach

Hometown: Hoboken, New Jersey

High School: North Bergen High School in New Jersey

Alma mater: Penn State University

Years at Wisconsin: D'Onofrio is entering his first season as the inside linebackers coach at Wisconsin. He was hired on June 10

Playing career: Mark D'Onofrio played linebacker at Penn State from 1988 to 1991 and led the team in sacks as a sophomore with 15. He then led the Nittany Lions in tackles as a junior with 71 and was named a team captain entering his senior season. Despite an injury that forced him to miss multiple games, D'Onofrio finished second on the team in tackles in his final season in Happy Valley. 

He would go on to be a second-round pick in the 1992 NFL Draft, going No. 34 overall to the Green Bay Packers. D'Onofrio's time in the league was cut short by a career-ending injury during his rookie season.

Previous coaching experience: D'Onofrio has a long history of coaching linebackers at the college level. He began his coaching career at Saint Peter's University (FCS) in New Jersey but joined the Georgia coaching staff in 2000 as a defensive assistant. After one season in Athens, D'Onofrio was hired by Rutgers, where he stayed for three seasons before heading to Virginia for two years.

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After his time on Virginia's coaching staff, D'Onofrio earned his first opportunity as a defensive coordinator at Temple, where he oversaw the defense for three seasons. He took over as defensive coordinator at Miami in 2011 and held that position through the end of the 2015 season. After a year away from football, D'Onofrio returned as the defensive coordinator at Houston for two years.

As a recruiter: Mark D'Onofrio has experience as a recruiting coordinator dating back to his time at Rutgers, and he has extensive ties to the state of New Jersey from his previous coaching stops. D'Onofrio landed several four-star prospects with the Miami Hurricanes, including a handful from his home state.

It is too early to truly know how D'Onofrio will be as a recruiter for Wisconsin, but he inherits 2023 commit Tyler Jansey, who Bob Bostad landed back at the beginning of the year. Given the way that the Badgers have recruited the inside linebacker position, it will be interesting to see if he can continue that momentum, and potentially help Wisconsin make further inroads in the Northeast as well.

Coaching trends: D'Onofrio has not held a formal coaching position since 2018. He brings plenty of experience to the defensive coaching staff, which should immediately help a young position group that is entering a pivotal season.

He takes over for Bill Sheridan, who resigned amid allegations dating back to Sheridan's time at Air Force, so the inside linebackers will now have three different coaches in only two seasons. Junior Tate Grass and sophomore Jordan Turner exited the spring working with the starters, but with D'Onofrio coming in, that could potentially change based on his wants for the group. Overall, how quickly he can adjust and the development of the inside linebackers will be fascinating to watch after years of sustained success under multiple coaches before him.

Three miscellaneous facts:

  • D'Onofrio brings 19 years of college coaching experience, including a decade as a defensive coordinator.
  • D'Onofrio opened his rookie season as a starter for the Green Bay Packers but only played in two NFL games because of a severe injury.
  • Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst had this to say about the hiring of D'Onofio earlier this month:

“I’m excited to have Mark join our staff. He’s very passionate and brings great energy. He has a wealth of experience, both as a player and coach. That experience will help players, especially those in the inside linebacker room. Mark’s an excellent fit for our staff personally and philosophically. I can’t wait for him to be able to get around our players and I’m excited about their opportunity to learn from him.”

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