Dan O’Brien ready for long-awaited opportunity to lead Southern Miss defense

O'Brien takes the defensive helm for USM football
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 2:42 AM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Tom O’Brien coached college football for 40 years.

His son Dan picked up quite a bit during about 35 of those years. Despite Tom focusing most of his attention on the offense, Dan gravitated toward the defensive side of the ball.

He’s been working toward becoming a defensive coordinator since he got into the field of coaching as a scouting assistant intern for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in 2005.

Dan bounced around quite a bit after that - with stints at Alabama, Georgia and the Naval Academy - before joining coach Will Hall’s staff at Southern Miss in 2021 as the safeties coach.

After Austin Armstrong’s departure for the University of Florida, Hall promoted Dan to defensive coordinator.

Dan believes he can build on USM’s defensive success of the past, a program which ranked No. 5 nationally in team sacks last season.

“For me it’s more about being tighter in coverage and closing windows and giving opportunities to guys up front to go eat and go get the quarterback,” Dan O’Brien said. “That’s just one of the things I’m a little different than in the past with coach Armstrong. Pressure-wise, we’re still the ‘Nasty Bunch.’ We’re still going to be physical and we’re still going to attack you.”

“Well two things that he really brings to the table and why I hired him and why I’ve loved him since he’s got here,” Hall said. “He’s highly, highly intelligent and has really great character. He’s been around the best of the best, he’s been integral in what we’ve done and helping building this program. We’re excited about our possibilities defensively.”

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