College football coaching news roundup: O'Brien leaves PSU for Texans, Texas rumors ramp up

Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE

Bill O'Brien reaches an agreement to return to the NFL and the search for Mack Brown's replacement intensifies.

O'Brien leaves Penn State for NFL

Though it had been in the works for a few days, Bill O'Brien was officially hired by the Houston Texans on Tuesday, leaving Penn State after guiding the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record in a pair of sanction-ridden seasons.

While an opening at school with PSU's history is going to attract plenty of well-qualified applicants (the softened NCAA penalties don't hurt either), Vanderbilt's James Franklin and recently fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano (for some reason) appear to be the early frontrunners.

Franklin, Malzahn eyed by Cleveland

Though there's no reason at this point to think that the interest is mutual, CBS reported that the Cleveland Browns have James Franklin and Gus Malzahn in their top group of candidates to replace recently fired head coach Rob Chudzinski.

Franklin's name seems to come up in every single head coaching search from the NFL to college to the Arena Football League, but Malzahn was more of a surprise. Though he has Auburn playing for the BCS National Championship, it's worth remembering that this is just his second season as a head coach at the FBS level.

Texas AD expects to hire Mack Brown's replacement by mid-January

While UT athletics director Steve Patterson would no doubt like to take as much time as he needs to ensure that he has identified the ideal replacement for outgoing Texas head coach Mack Brown, there is a certain amount of pressure to make hire as quickly as possible. Not only is a vacant head coach position at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country (with no clear plan for a transition) not great from a public relations perspective, but there's the more immediate, practical concern of the 23 recruits who have made commitments to the Longhorns are probably wondering who their head coach is going to be if they sign with UT on Feb. 5.

To that end, Patterson told ESPN on Tuesday that Brown's replacement will be hired by Jan. 15, which coincides with the end of the recruiting "dead period" during which coaches are not permitted to contact prospective student-athletes.

"We have to be back open for business in the middle of the month once the dead period ends," Patterson said. "The coach has to put together a staff and get up and running, keep the recruits we got and fill up any spots we've got open."

Texas reportedly interested in Charlie Strong

While reports vary as to just how far along the Longhorns are in their inquiry about Charlie Strong's availability, it seems that Texas is definitely interested in the Louisville head coach. And why wouldn't they be? Since taking over for Steve Kragthorpe in 2010, Strong has led the Cardinals to a 37-15 record, including 23 wins and a BCS bowl win during the past two seasons.

Strong has also overseen the recruitment and development of former Heisman Trophy contender and (likely) top 2014 NFL Draft selection Teddy Bridgewater. You might have heard about the Longhorns' struggle to identify and cultivate quarterback talent during the latter years of the Mack Brown era.

Jimbo Fisher gets a raise

While money probably is among the least of Patterson's concerns in his search for a new Texas football coach, it could cost the Longhorns a little bit more to lure Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State than it would have last week. The Seminoles' head coach signed a new contract that will keep him in Tallahassee for the next five seasons and give him a raise of more than $1.25 million in base salary.

Though UT would now be faced with a higher salary to match if they decide to offer Fisher, Orangebloods is reporting that the new deal actually reduces his buyout.

Assistant coach news and notes

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will interview for the vacant head coaching position at Georgia Southern, but the chances of him leaving Athens seem low.

Steve Sarkisian has made yet another hire to his staff at Southern Cal, brining on 49ers offensive line coach Tim Drevno and adding "run game coordinator" to his title.

South Carolina wide receivers coach and son of Steve Spurrier, Steve Spurrier, Jr., has expressed interest in the soon-to-be-vacant offensive coordinator position at Duke, but there's no indication that his interest has been reciprocated.

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