Morning Newsletter

Patriots' O'Brien is named to succeed Paterno at Penn St.

Penn State has hired New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien as its head coach, the first change in leadership for the storied football program in nearly a half-century.

The announcement caps a turbulent two-month period that began with the firing of Hall of Famer Joe Paterno on Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Not only is O'Brien replacing Division I's winningest coach, but he must also guide a program shrouded in uncertainty. Besides the criminal investigation into Sandusky, the NCAA has launched its own inquiry.

O'Brien was set to be formally announced at a news conference Saturday morning.

O'Brien and Paterno do share at least one connection — both coaches attended Brown University.

"I understand Bill O'Brien has been named head coach and I want to congratulate him on his appointment," Paterno said in a statement to the AP provided by his family. "I don't know Bill, but I respect his coaching record, and I am particularly pleased we share a connection to my alma mater, Brown."

Florida targets Boise State's Brent Pease as OC

Florida has targeted Boise State's Brent Pease to replace Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.

The Gators met with Pease on Friday, but they might have to wait until next week to get an answer because Pease is reportedly scheduled to interview with Alabama Coach Nick Saban for the Crimson Tide's open coordinator job.

Alabama's Jim McElwain took the head coaching job at Colorado State last month. He will remain with the Crimson Tide through the Bowl Championship Series national title game Monday against top-ranked LSU.

Pease served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kentucky in 2001-02.

Mississippi's Freeze earns $100K for each SEC win

Victories mean money for new Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze — a $100,000 bonus for each Southeastern Conference win.

Freeze will earn a base salary of $1.5 million next season, but he has the opportunity to push that total to $1.9 million with a 4-for-4 record in the SEC. That would be no small accomplishment. The Rebels finished 2-10 last season, including 0-8 in the SEC.

Freeze has the ability to earn $1.425 million in incentives next season if he achieves certain goals, including on-field success and academic achievements. Recently fired coach Houston Nutt made more than $2.7 million last season.

Declaring for the NFL Draft

 Oregon running back LaMichael James. A 5-foot-9, 195-pound All-American, James rushed for a school-record 1,805 yards this season despite missing two games with a dislocated right elbow. He led the nation with an average of 150.4 yards rushing a game.

James is Oregon's all-time leading career rusher with 5,082 yards. He is the first Pac-12 player to have three straight 1,500-yard seasons.

 Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. The two-time All-America selection led the nation in tackles in 2011.

Kuechly is a 6-foot-3, 237-pound linebacker who had 191 tackles this season.

 Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. Wilson says the NFL's draft advisory board projects him as a second-round pick and he believes he can improve his status at the NFL combine.

Wilson rushed for 1,709 yards and nine TDs this season.