Ohio State’s Offensive Transfer Additions Excited to Play for Bill O’Brien

By Dan Hope on February 2, 2024 at 12:10 pm
Bill O’Brien
Eric Canha – USA TODAY Sports

Will Howard didn’t know when he committed to Ohio State that Bill O’Brien would be his new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But he’s thrilled that it worked out that way.

Howard considered entering the 2024 NFL draft, but instead chose to use his final year of collegiate eligibility to transfer from Kansas State to Ohio State because he wanted to bolster his draft stock, which was projected to be between the third and sixth rounds. Now, he’ll have the chance to learn from a coach who was both a head coach (Houston Texans) and offensive coordinator (New England Patriots) in the NFL, and he says that fires him up.

“How much better can you prepare for the NFL than with somebody who's coached at a head coach level and in the coordinator level in the NFL?” Howard said.

O’Brien has a track record of leading successful offenses in both the NFL and college, most notably during his first stint with the Patriots when he helped lead Tom Brady to some of his best seasons in New England. At the collegiate level, O’Brien was most recently Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022, both seasons in which the Crimson Tide ranked in the top six nationally in points scored per game.

New Ohio State center Seth McLaughlin was a part of those offenses, and he expects Ohio State’s offense to be similarly high-scoring with O’Brien at the helm.

“I think he brings a ton of experience. He's a great coach,” McLaughlin said. “He's had a proven track record of being a good coach. In our time at Alabama, he put up a lot of points. So it'll be fun to watch what he does with this offense.”

All four offensive transfers who met with reporters at Ohio State this week expressed excitement to be coached by O’Brien in Columbus. Running back Quinshon Judkins said O’Brien’s offense caught his eye when he played against Alabama during his freshman year at Ole Miss in 2022, when the Crimson Tide defeated the Rebels 30-24.

“I played against him and how he used (former Alabama running back) Jahmyr Gibbs and I’ve seen a lot of those things and also his career when he was with the Patriots as well. So seeing him as a coach here, it's really cool,” Judkins said.

“In our time at Alabama, he put up a lot of points. So it'll be fun to watch what he does with this offense.”– Seth McLaughlin on Bill O’Brien

With O’Brien now teaming up with Ryan Day – also a former NFL quarterbacks coach – to scheme up Ohio State’s offense, Howard is confident that the Buckeyes’ offense will allow him to maximize his skill set, particularly as a passer.

“The things that Coach Day does in his offense and that Coach O'Brien does, I feel like really fit my type of build, my type of player,” Howard said. “Where I was coming from at K-State, it was a very run-heavy offense, especially quarterback run-heavy, which I was very happy to do and didn't mind doing at all. I'm excited here to where I feel like it's more of where I can be that pocket passer and also use my legs when I need to.”

O’Brien is known to be an intense coach, as evidenced by a famous sideline spat he had with Brady in New England. McLaughlin knows from experience that O’Brien will expect players to be serious in their approach.

“I think the most important thing as a player for Coach O'Brien is his pro background,” McLaughlin said. “He expects you to handle yourself like a pro, he expects you to prepare like a pro and anything short of that, he's not a big fan of, which is understandable.”

That said, McLaughlin is happy to have the chance to be coached by O’Brien again.

“I was with Coach O'Brien for two years at Alabama and we had a great time together. We're very familiar with each other and I loved having him as a coach,” McLaughlin said. “So I'm excited for that opportunity again.”

While the rest of Ohio State’s players likely won’t see the more intense side of O’Brien until they actually begin practicing this spring, they’ve found him easy to get along with so far.

“Awesome guy. He's super friendly,” said Ohio transfer tight end Will Kacmarek. “He came and reached out to us when we were throwing routes, getting some extra work in. He's always wanting to get the best (out) of us and making sure that we're on top of our stuff.”

Howard already feels a strong connection to his new position coach.

“He seems just very relatable, someone that I can get along with really well. Very smart,” Howard said. “I mean, he's been around for how long doing this and has done some really, really good things in some really big-time places. Just the experience that he brings and that I'll be able to feed off of and kind of really just learn from him and kind of bounce ideas off of him because, you know, he's really personable. He's a player's coach. He wants to do what we want to do and cater to our strengths and he wants to run our offense and that's big time.”

In the days since Ohio State’s new transfers met with the media on Tuesday, O’Brien’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate for Boston College’s head coaching job after Jeff Hafley left BC to become the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator. If O’Brien wants to be a head coach again, the job could be a logical fit for both sides as O’Brien grew up in Boston and was already living in the area while working for the Patriots last year.

As of Friday morning, however, it was unclear whether O’Brien is interested in the job. It’s a possibility that can’t be ruled out until Boston College hires a coach or O’Brien formally declines interest in the job, but as of now, Ohio State is planning for O’Brien to call the offensive plays and coach the quarterbacks in Columbus this year.

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