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Penn State Football: 'Bama’s Saban Believes in O’Brien, Thinks He Will Do Great Job at Penn State

by on March 03, 2012 6:00 AM

FOGELSVILLE, Pa. — Alabama’s Nick Saban, the only coach to win three BCS national championships, has a solid bond with Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s new boss.

Both were protégés of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and both coaches left major college football for the NFL, only to return to college.

Saban believes O’Brien, who joined him at a Nike coaches clinic here Friday, will be a big hit with the Nittany Lions.

Why? Belichick.

“[I] really respected him as a coach when he coached back in college,” Saban said. “He’s always had a great reputation. I know that when he coached with Bill Belichick, that’s what made a huge difference for me in terms of my development as a coach — not just about football but about overall organization and personnel.

“Just talking to Bill (O'Brien), it’s like same old, same old in terms of what I learned and what he’s talking about, so I’m sure he’ll do a great job there.”

Saban was hired at Alabama in 2007 after two mediocre seasons with the Miami Dolphins. O’Brien was a college assistant for 14 years before joining Belichick’s staff as an NFL assistant in 2007.

Saban has a career college coaching record of 141-54-1, while O’Brien won’t coach his first game until Sept. 1 against Ohio University at Beaver Stadium.

“You learn a lot of football in the NFL and you really don’t have to pare it down as much as people think,” Saban said. “You just have to be a good teacher.

“I think he knows the system and what it takes to recruit, how to evaluate players. He’s been in some good programs in college, so I don’t think it will be a big adjustment.”

Saban served as defensive coordinator under Belichick from 1991-94 with the Cleveland Browns. O’Brien, meanwhile, spent the past five seasons with Belichick and the Patriots, most recently as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. O'Brien made two trips to the Super Bowl, including last month’s 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.

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Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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