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Ohio State hires Bill O'Brien, ex-Texans coach and Alabama assistant, as offensive coordinator

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien watches warmups prior to a game.
Matt Freed
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien watches warmups for the team's NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. Ohio State is hiring O'Brien as its offensive coordinator, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Thursday night, Jan. 18, 2024. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the hire still needed university approval, but an announcement was expected as soon as Friday.

Ohio State has hired former Houston Texans and Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien as its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the program confirmed in a statement Friday.

“He is an excellent and experienced offensive coach who has run NFL and Power 5 programs and developed some truly elite players throughout his career,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said in a statement. "He’ll be an excellent teacher and recruiter for us, and he absolutely strengthens our staff.”

Day has been Ohio State's primary play-caller since being promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in 2019 to replace Urban Meyer. Bringing in an experienced play-caller at both the college and NFL level could allow Day to hand off those responsibilities.

Brian Hartline will remain a co-offensive coordinator as well as wide receivers coach. Quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis, Meyer's son-in-law, “will transition into a still-to-be-determined role with the program,” the statement said.

Related: Ohio State's quarterback search and the impact of the transfer portal on college football

The Buckeyes (11-2) ranked 25th in the country in yards per play (6.38) last season, their worst showing since 2016. Ohio State lost to Michigan for the third straight year and then dropped its bowl game against Missouri, playing with a third-string quarterback after starter Kyle McCord transferred and backup Devin Brown was injured.

O'Brien, 54, spent seven seasons as coach of the Texans, going 52-48 from 2014-20 and working with quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Before that he coached at Penn State for two seasons, taking over for Joe Paterno and going 15-9 with a program that was dealing with severe NCAA sanctions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

O'Brien returned to college after being fired by the Texans, joining Nick Saban's staff at Alabama as offensive coordinator for two years. He coached Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young in 2021.

O'Brien returned to the NFL and the New England Patriots this season as offensive coordinator. His first stint working for Patriots coach Bill Belichick was from 2007-11. He was quarterbacks coach for Tom Brady from 2009-11.

At Ohio State, O'Brien should have plenty to work with.

The Buckeyes brought in Kansas State quarterback Will Howard and Mississippi running back Quinshon Judkins as transfers earlier this month and bring back wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and running back TreVeyon Henderson, who both decided to return to school instead of entering the NFL draft.