Houston Texans’ head coach Bill O’Brien had a successful first season in the NFL, taking over a 2-14 team and helping them become a 9-7 team. O’Brien came back into the NFL after helping another team climb up from the bottom.
The former New England Patriots’ assistant took over a team in Penn State which had a dark cloud over it and some extreme sanctions which limited how he could recruit. Obviously these circumstances at Penn State were much different than what he faced coming in to Houston, but that does not make his experience in the NCAA meaningless.
“Maybe one of them will get an opportunity in Houston.” – Bill O’Brien
In fact, it gives O’Brien some serious clout. Going 15-9 while dealing with the four year post season ban and loss of ten scholarships a season for the same time frame is nothing to scoff at. What makes it an even more impressive feat by O’Brien is that he not only lost future players, but current ones were allowed to leave as well. The NCAA allowed any other program to recruit and use scholarships to lure away Penn State players.
What the head coach learned in this all is that the guys he did have were not afraid to stick together and battle through adversity. That’s why it is not shocking to hear the coach speak fondly of his former players while he keeps a close eye on them at the NFL scouting combine.
O’Brien said he was proud of how well his former guys showed up during the workouts in Indianapolis. The big five who have NFL hopes which stood out were safety Adrian Amos, kicker Sam Ficken, linebacker Mike Hull, tight end Jesse James and guard Donovan Smith.
"“Those guys practiced hard for me,” O’Brien said of the quintet. “They showed up every Saturday and played hard. They were important members of the two teams that I coached at Penn State.”"
The Texans could have a need at all those positions, although it is unlikely to pick five guys from the same school, it would be wise to watch these players closely. Amos could be a solid deep safety, which would pair nicely with Texans big hitter D.J. Swearinger at safety. Mike Hull is a sure tackler who had 140 tackles, 2 quarterback sacks and one interception during the 2014 season. And tight end Jesse James is a 6’7″ 254 pounder who happens to play the position which the Texans need a serious upgrade.
As for guard Donovan Smith, he is projected to be a back up guard in the NFL, but depth with a trusted player would not be ignored by O’Brien. As for the kicking spot, the Texans Randy Bullock hit on 30 of his 35 tries this year, so I don’t expect Houston to use a draft pick there. Yet if a guy like Ficken who was successful on 24 of 29 kicks in 2014 is around after the draft, he could be brought in for a little camp competition.
While history would probably say that O’Brien will most likely not end up with more than one or possibly two players he formerly coached, the football coach himself does not seem to think the idea is so far fetched to bring in his old guys.
"“You never know,” O’Brien said with a smile. “Maybe one of them will get an opportunity in Houston.”"
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