Bill O’Brien is heading to Ohio State.
According to ESPN, the former Houston Texans and Penn State coach is reportedly set to be the new offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. O’Brien spent the 2023 season as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator but was available after the Patriots parted ways with Bill Belichick after the season and elevated Jerod Mayo to head coach.
Before he ran New England’s offense for a second time, O’Brien was the offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2021 and 2022. O’Brien was the coordinator as Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 and Alabama scored 40 points per game in each of those two seasons.
O’Brien’s hire is a significant sign of an offensive shift at Ohio State as the Buckeyes enter the 2024 season on a three-game losing streak to defending national champion Michigan. Though Marvin Harrison Jr. is off to the NFL, Ohio State returns a lot of potential high 2024 NFL Draft picks and added offensive talent through the transfer portal. After 2023 starter Kyle McCord transferred to Syracuse in December and Devin Brown was injured in the Cotton Bowl, Ohio State got a commitment from former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard in January.
The Buckeyes also added former Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins in the transfer portal. With the return of TreVeyon Henderson to Columbus in 2024, Ohio State could have the best running back combination in the country.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has been the team's play-caller since he was promoted to head coach to succeed Urban Meyer in 2019. After a 2022 season that ended in a College Football Playoff loss to Georgia, former Ohio State wide receiver Brian Hartline was elevated to offensive coordinator after Kevin Wilson's departure to Tulsa. Weeks before the 2023 season began, Day said he'd still be "involved" in the play-calling and that Hartline would have a chance to call plays "as time goes on."
O’Brien’s return to college football is also a chance for him to show the 2023 offensive disaster in New England was an anomaly. The Patriots scored fewer than 14 points per game — tied with Young’s Carolina Panthers for worst in the NFL — and averaged 4.6 yards per play as QB Mac Jones lost his starting job to Bailey Zappe.
O’Brien came to Alabama after he was fired by the Houston Texans following an 0-4 start to the 2020 season. The Texans won the AFC South four times in O’Brien’s six full seasons with the team, and he had a career record of 52-48 as a head coach. However, things went south quickly in 2020 after O’Brien was appointed the team’s general manager in January 2020 and traded away star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Before he came to Houston, O’Brien spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as Penn State’s head coach. He was 15-9 at Penn State and was hired by the Nittany Lions after spending four seasons as an assistant in New England.