Boston College has hired Bill O'Brien as its next coach, the university announced Friday. O'Brien replaces Jeff Hafley, who abruptly left his post after four seasons to become the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator. O'Brien was named thein mid-January, but the Boston native now sets his sights on Chestnut Hill to fill an unexpected vacancy for the Eagles.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, areafter Kelly left UCLA on Friday afternoon.
"When we embarked on this search, we prioritized finding a coach who believes in our mission and vision, who has a plan for greatness on and off the field, and who will work tirelessly to elevate BC Football," said athletic director Blake James in a statement. "Bill is a gifted leader who has had a tremendous amount of success as a head coach and coordinator at both the collegiate and NFL levels. His passion for teaching football and developing young men make him a great fit to lead Boston College to greater heights."
O'Brien heads back to the Boston area after spending the 2023 season as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, where he was previously on staff from 2007-11 during the Tom Brady era. It is his first time back in the college game since serving as Alabama offensive coordinator from 2021-22, and it's his second stint as a college coach after guiding Penn State out of the Joe Paterno era from 2012-13. O'Brien was 15-9 in his two seasons leading the Nittany Lions.
O'Brien also has more extensive head-coaching experience in the NFL with the Houston Texans from 2014-2020. He went 52-48 throughout his tenure prior to a midseason firing in 2020. He led the the franchise to four AFC South championships, though Houston never went further than the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.
Although O'Brien never coached a game with the Buckeyes, this is the second straight coaching search for Boson College to end with the Eagles poaching an Ohio State assistant. Hafley served as the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2019 before taking the Boston College job in time for the 2020 campaign.
What it means for O'Brien, Boston College
Boston College lands a coach who knows the Northeast well and has a strong track record working with quarterbacks. Beyond his overlap with Brady while on staff with the Patriots, O'Brien was key in the development of Deshaun Watson while in Houston. More recently, he worked hands on with former Heisman Trophy winner and future No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Young while at Alabama. His presence could give way to an immediate boost for an Eagles offense that ranked just 82nd in scoring among FBS teams in 2023.
Expectations won't exactly be sky-high compared to some of the other places O'Brien has recently coached (NFL or college), either. He was set to be under a microscope of sorts in 2024 at Ohio State, where pressure has been mounting for coach Ryan Day's staff despite an 11-2 finish in 2023. An underwhelming offense was largely seen as the reason for the Buckeyes falling to Michigan and missing the Big Ten Championship Game for a third straight year, costing Ohio State a potential College Football Playoff berth.
Boston College, meanwhile, has not won more than seven games in a season since its debut under former coach Frank Spaziani in 2009 when it finished 8-5. The Eagles' 7-6 finish under Hafley in 2023 was their strongest under his watch, signaling the program's first winning season since going 7-5 under former coach Steve Addazio in 2018. Taking over a program in mid-February has more challenges than it used to thanks to an evolving college football calendar -- O'Brien will be tasked with re-recruiting an Eagles signing class that was effectively finalized in December -- but a more relaxed environment in his native region could give allow the 54-year-old O'Brien to thrive.
Ohio State ready to roll with Kelly?
Though O'Brien is out after less than a month on staff, the Buckeyes appear to have a splash hire ready to go with Kelly. The man calling the offensive plays during the 2024 season may be different with O'Brien gone, but the challenge facing the program remains the same.
The Buckeyes are slated to start a third different quarterback in as many seasons after 2023 starter Kyle McCord transferred to Syracuse, giving way to Ohio State landing Kansas State transfer Will Howard to be the presumed starter in 2024. Backup Devin Brown returns, and Ohio State also received an unexpected but welcomed boost in in the form of former five-star 2024 Alabama signee Julian Sayin. The prized signal-caller enrolled with the Crimson Tide in January, but he subsequently hit the portal and took his talents to Columbus following coach Nick Saban's retirement.
With a stacked supporting cast that includes a slew of returners and high-profile transfers on both sides of the ball, high-level quarterback play will be imperative for the Buckeyes to achieve their national championship aspirations in 2024. While Day could reverse course and be more hands-on with the offense by necessity, doing so would seemingly be a last-resort situation given the initiative he took earlier this winter to hand off play calling duties. It's not surprising that Ohio State, with the resources at its disposal and entering a new wave of leadership with the arrival of Ross Bjork as athletic director, is taking an aggressive approach to spearheading the offense.