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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill O’Brien will return to the New England Patriots after agreeing to a deal Tuesday to become their next offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Low.

O’Brien, 53, who spent the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama, now is back to where his NFL career began in 2007 as a coaching assistant.

In that first stint in New England, O’Brien quickly rose through the ranks on Bill Belichick’s staff to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, spending three years (2009-11) in that role before departing for head-coaching positions with Penn State (2012-13) and the Houston Texans (2014-20).

A Massachusetts native, O’Brien will be charged with improving a Patriots offense that dipped notably in most key areas in 2022, including:

• red zone efficiency: 11th (39 TDs in 63 trips) to 32nd (19 TDs in 45 trips)

• third-down efficiency: 10th (43.5%) to 27th (34.8%)

• first downs: tied for ninth (362) to 28th (288)

• sacks allowed: eighth (28 for 241 yards) to 19th (41 for 279 yards)

• touchdowns scored: 48 to 31

Belichick didn’t name an official offensive coordinator for the Patriots in 2022, leaning on Matt Patricia as the primary playcaller despite Patricia’s mostly defensive background in his NFL career.

Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of the offense — changing the blocking terminology for offensive linemen — in which one of his goals was to produce more big plays down the field.

But the desired results never came to fruition, leading to the Patriots, who are notoriously tight-lipped about their intentions, publicly announcing on Jan. 12 that they would be interviewing for an offensive coordinator.

In addition to O’Brien, the Patriots also spoke with current New England tight ends coach Nick Caley, Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell, Arizona Cardinals assistant head coach Shawn Jefferson and Oregon associate head coach/offensive line/run-game coordinator Adrian Klemm about the job.

Upon landing at Alabama, where he worked closely with quarterback Bryce Young, O’Brien had also spent time with current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who helped O’Brien learn the Tide offense in the months following Jones’ final season with Alabama.

With O’Brien headed back to the NFL, Saban will be looking for his sixth different offensive coordinator in the past eight seasons. The previous five — Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley, Brian Daboll, Lane Kiffin and O’Brien — are all now either NFL head coaches or offensive coordinators or Power 5 head coaches.

Saban also is searching for a defensive coordinator after Pete Golding left for the same position at Ole Miss earlier this month. The last time Saban brought in two new coordinators in the same year was after the Crimson Tide’s 2017 national championship season.

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Georgia’s Bennett arrested for public intoxication

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Georgia's Bennett arrested for public intoxication

Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who led the Bulldogs to their second straight CFP National Championship earlier this month, was arrested on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday morning.

In a statement to ESPN, a Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers responded to a report of a man banging on doors in the 1600 block of Tribeca Way at 7:10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

“The preliminary investigation found when officers arrived, they located the man, Stetson Bennett, 25, and determined he was intoxicated,” the police statement read. “Bennett was taken into custody, transported to the City Detention Center and charged with public intoxication.”

Bennett left the detention center Sunday morning, but he could not be reached for comment.

Bennett, who started his college career as a walk-on, was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season, after leading the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record and SEC championship. He passed for 4,127 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for another 10 scores.

Bennett was named the offensive MVP in both of Georgia’s victories in the CFP, a 42-41 comeback win against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and a 65-7 rout of TCU in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.

Bennett, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is considered a potential selection in April’s NFL draft. He recently won the Manning Award, which is given to the top quarterback in the FBS by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

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Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.

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Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.

Former Tennessee and Colorado quarterback J.T. Shrout is transferring to Arkansas State, sources told ESPN.

Shrout visited Arkansas State over the weekend and his commitment looms as a significant win for Butch Jones, who is entering his third season as Arkansas State’s head coach.

Shrout will graduate from Colorado this spring and plans to enroll at Arkansas State in May, according to sources. He has one year of eligibility remaining and potentially a second if he gets a medical redshirt after missing the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL.

Shrout most recently played at Colorado in 2022, where he threw for 1,220 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions and delivered the game-winning touchdown pass against Cal in overtime in Colorado’s lone victory of the season. He started seven games at Colorado and had one start during his three seasons at Tennessee (2018-2020).

Shrout is one of three Buffaloes quarterbacks who have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the school hired Deion Sanders as head coach. Sanders has made it clear that his son, Shedeur, will be the starter next season. He introduced him at his opening news conference by saying, “This is your quarterback.”

According to sources, Shrout was attracted to the potential opportunity at Arkansas State, including playing in offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf’s West Coast-style offense. Shrout also had some teammates at Tennessee who played for Jones, and sources said the former teammates endorsed Jones both as a person and a coach.

Arkansas State (3-9) ranked No. 118 in total offense last season and No. 85 in scoring offense. The Red Wolves open the 2023 season at Oklahoma on Sept. 2.

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Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal

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Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal

Broncos owner Greg Penner and University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh met last week in Ann Arbor to discuss Denver’s head-coaching position without any deal materializing, league sources told ESPN.

Although Harbaugh two weeks ago announced he was staying at Michigan, Penner did his due diligence and still traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with the coach in person, like he’s done with seven other candidates during the Broncos’ head-coaching search.

The follow-up conversations were part of the process for both Denver — led by Penner with general manager George Paton — and Harbaugh. The face-to-face meeting came after Harbaugh’s initial video interview with Denver, after which he pulled his name out of contention and reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan.

“I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, president Santa Ono and especially the players and their families,” Harbaugh said in his statement Jan. 16. “My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy, happy.’ Go Blue!”

The Broncos moved on as well, continuing their discussions with several other candidates. Denver has interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Stanford coach David Shaw, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero.

Harbaugh now has met with the Vikings and Broncos in back-to-back years. While one source wondered how many more chances Harbaugh would get, another league source said “The league is likely to be interested in Jim as long as he is successfully coaching. He’s proven at every level including the NFL. That’s a hard resume to match.”

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