Officially announced by Sports Information Director Jeff Nelson in a late night tweet on Friday night and confirmed by this morning's introductory press conference, Massachusetts-born Bill O'Brien is the newest head coach at Penn State University. O'Brien has signed a five-year deal with Penn State, the terms of which are as-of-yet undisclosed.
O'Brien landed in State College yesterday evening aboard a University aircraft, and headed straight for the Bryce Jordan Center with his wife, Colleen, and son. He met with Nelson and other members of the administration before holding a conference call with the current players.
This morning's press conference is the first we've actually heard from O'Brien and acting athletic director Dave Joyner. But now that it's official, what do we know about Bill O'Brien?
As stated, O'Brien is a New Englander by birth, attended Brown in the early 1990's, and immediately went into coaching. He stayed at his alma mater for a couple of years, coaching tight ends and linebackers, before moving to a lengthy run in the ACC with three different teams.
From 1995 to 2002, O'Brien was on staff at Georgia Tech, starting as a graduate assistant and rising all the way to offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Over that span, the Yellow Jackets went 60-36, with a 3-3 mark in bowl games, which included a 35-28 victory over Notre Dame in the 1999 Gator Bowl. O'Brien also spent two years as recruiting coordinator for the Yellow Jacks (unfortunately, the major recruiting services only track data to 2002, so it's difficult to judge O'Brien's success as a recruiting coordinator).
After his eight seasons with Georgia Tech, O'Brien moved on to become the running backs coach at Maryland for two seasons, joining Ralph Friedgen's staff two years after Ron Vanderlinden was fired as head coach. The Terps went 15-9 in the two years O'Brien was on staff, and also included a 41-7 beatdown of West Virginia in the 2004 Gator Bowl.
O'Brien's next stop was an offensive coordinator position at Duke which also included coaching the quarterbacks. He held this spot for two rough years, as the Blue Devils went 1-22 over the two year span, which fell in the middle of a rough four year run for Duke under Ted Roof (no pun intended).
Sensing a change was in order, O'Brien left Duke and headed home, taking a job in the NFL with the New England Patriots as an offensive assistant. He occupied this spot, which had no real position group oversight, for a year before taking control of the wide receivers in 2008. In a year that saw Tom Brady go down with a season-ending injury, the Patriots were still able to notch two 1000-yard receivers in Wes Welker and Randy Moss.
A year later, following the departure of Josh McDaniels to Denver (who is rumored to be returning to New England to fill the eventually-vacant offensive coordinator spot), O'Brien took over the quarterback coaching duties for two years, before being named offensive coordinator in 2011. Over these three years the Patriots went 37-11, including three playoff berths, at least two Tom Brady awards (2009 Comeback Player of the Year, 2010 NFL MVP), and an offense that is dynamically potent, scoring over 500 points twice in three years.
Now O'Brien finds him self employed in not one envious coaching position, but two. The 2011 Patriots are knee-deep in a run at the Super Bowl, earning a first round bye and set to play Saturday, January 14th. Additionally, O'Brien will head the new regime at Penn State, one that will be looked upon to act quickly in certain aspects, namely recruiting.
What the makeup of the new staff will look like, as well as any carryover from the Joe Paterno era, remains to be seen. O'Brien mentioned retaining Larry Johnson, which is the second best thing he could have done (outside of leaving the Patriots and starting immediately). Having spent a number of years in college and the pros, O'Brien has built quite a coaching circle, so his options at staffing are myriad. However, until more is known, all we can do is welcome Coach O'Brien to Penn State, and wish him nothing but unbridled success in his time here.