Patriots laud Penn State's new coach
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker and his teammates Wednesday praised their offensive coordinator, Bill O'Brien, and Welker told the Post-Gazette O'Brien will be an instant hit as Penn State's new coach.
"Billy's a great coach, and, obviously, he's done a lot of great things here," Welker said in an interview in the Patriots locker room at Gillette Stadium. "He brings a great attitude and a lot of fire in different things.
"I think he'll do a super job at Penn State."
O'Brien, 42, was hired as the Nittany Lions' coach Saturday, but will remain with New England through the NFL playoffs.
Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer said he will miss O'Brien, who received a five-year deal from Penn State worth a guaranteed $2.3 million per season to succeed Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno.
Paterno was fired Nov. 9 amid a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
"I love Billy O'Brien," Hoyer said. "I wouldn't be where I am without him. I think he'll do a great job at Penn State."
The Patriots (13-3) will play host to the Denver Broncos (9-8) Saturday night in an AFC divisional playoff game. The Broncos eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs Sunday in Denver, 29-23.
O'Brien rejoined the Patriots after meeting with his Penn State players for the first time Sunday evening at the Lasch Football Building in University Park, Pa.
That was the same day New England coach Bill Belichick rehired former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as an assistant. McDaniels is working with O'Brien and will replace him as offensive coordinator next season, retaking a job he previously held with the Patriots.
This is O'Brien's first season in charge of New England's offense, but his fifth season on Belichick's staff. O'Brien also has 14 years of college coaching experience as an assistant.
The Patriots scored an AFC-high 513 points in the regular season en route to the playoffs. They ranked second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 yards per game) and passing (317.8 ypg).
Quarterback Tom Brady passed for 5,235 yards -- second in the NFL -- and 39 touchdowns. Welker led the league with 122 receptions, and his 1,569 yards were second in the NFL. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, from Woodland Hills High School, had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and an NFL-high 17 touchdowns.
Left tackle Matt Light, a three-time Pro Bowl performer, said O'Brien's contributions to the Patriots' playoff run should not be overlooked.
"I think coach O'Brien's done just a phenomenal job of handling the rules and responsibilities that come with being a coordinator and really jumping into it from Day 1," Light said. "He really understands the game. He really understands our entire offense. It's going to be tough to lose him, but we've still got some battles to play out."
NOTES -- South Carolina special teams coach John Butler is the eighth Penn State assistant coach hired by O'Brien. Butler, a Philadelphia native, also could coach defensive backs. ... Offensive tackle Quinn Barham , strong safety Drew Astorino and running back Stephfon Green will play Monday in the Casino Del Sol all-star game in Tucson, Ariz.
"He brings a great attitude and a lot of fire in different things. I think he'll do a super job at Penn State."
-- Wes Welker, on Bill O'Brien
First Published January 12, 2012 12:00 am