Five things to know about new Alabama football offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien
Alabama's replacement for Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator is Bill O'Brien, who has spent the past nine seasons as a head coach. UA officially announced O'Brien as its offensive coordinator Thursday evening.
"He has a wealth of experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and college," UA head coach Nick Saban said in a statement. "Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter. He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful."
Here are five things to know about O'Brien.
He's been in the NFL for most of the last two decades
O'Brien has been an assistant or head coach in the NFL for 12 of the past 14 seasons: the New England Patriots in various assistant roles from 2007-11, then 2014-20 as the Houston Texans head coach, separated by two seasons as Penn State's head coach.
O'Brien made the move to the NFL after a disastrous stint as Duke's offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006. The Blue Devils went 1-22 in that span, under head coach Ted Roof, and the offense scored 13 or fewer points in six of its 12 games in 2006.
He's coached in Bryant-Denny Stadium before
On Oct. 7, 2006, the 0-4 Duke Blue Devils, with O'Brien as the offensive coordinator, visited a 3-2 Alabama team. Duke led at halftime, but a touchdown from Jimmy Johns and a 50-yard interception return from Lionel Mitchell — all in the final 4:08 of the game — unraveled the upset bid as UA won 30-14.
Duke running back Re'quan Boyette had a productive day, running nine times for 94 yards, but it was not enough to make up for a lackluster passing performance from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis: 7-of-18 for 74 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.
Offensive line issues failed his Penn State offenses
The 2013 Nittany Lions allowed 22 sacks, or 1.83 per game, and finished eighth in the Big Ten in averaging 4.18 yards per carry. The result was an offense that struggled on the way to a 7-5 season that included a 44-24 loss to a 5-7 Indiana team, a 63-14 loss to Ohio State, a 24-10 loss to Minnesota and a 23-20 overtime loss to Nebraska.
That season, Penn State also needed a field goal in the final seconds to force overtime against Illinois, a game it won 24-17.
He played defense in the Ivy League
O'Brien was a defensive back and linebacker at Brown from 1990-92 and got his coaching start there the following season, coaching tight ends in 1993 and inside linebackers in 1994.
His true offensive educational experience began after he left Brown for eight years at Georgia Tech, all but one of those years under George O'Leary: three seasons as an offensive graduate assistant, three as the running backs coach and two as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
His limited recruiting background is respectable
O'Brien's tenure at Penn State is the only modern recruiting on his record, and it came with heavy sanctions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but O'Brien and his staff were able to bring solid talent to Penn State. The 2013 class, signed in between his seasons at Penn State, featured quarterback Christian Hackenberg, an eventual second-round NFL Draft pick, and DaeSean Hamilton, a 500-yard receiver on Penn State's Big Ten championship team in 2016.
That 2013 class also included a prospect from Alabama: lineman Parker Cothren of Hazel Green. Cothren was an offensive lineman as a recruit but played defensive line for Penn State, ultimately starting 13 times in his senior season in 2017.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson