Hixon is among six assistants formally announced Thursday to O’Brien’s coaching staff. Besides being Penn State’s assistant head coach, Hixon will also mentor the wide receivers.
A 32-year coaching veteran, Hixon tutored the wideouts for the Bills. He’s had stops with the Washington Redskins and LSU, and he was on the same staff at Georgia Tech with O’Brien from 1995-99.
O’Brien also confirmed he’s retaining Ron Vanderlinden as linebackers coach. He and defensive line coach Larry Johnson are veteran holdovers and two of the top recruiters from former coach Joe Paterno’s staff.
“It was crucial to get an experienced, passionate and enthusiastic staff together quickly so they can hit the ground running,” O’Brien said in the team statement announcing the hirings.
The rookie head coach is back in New England this week as he finishes his duties as the Patriots offensive coordinator through the end of the NFL playoffs. Denver visits New England this weekend in an AFC divisional round game.
Also formally hired at Penn State were: ex-Texas associate head coach and offensive line coach Mac McWorther (offensive line); Tennessee Titans offensive assistant Charles London (running backs); and Ball State offensive line coach John Strollo (tight ends).
O’Brien has said he does not plan to hire an offensive coordinator, and will call the plays.
Still to be finalized are the hirings of assistants to oversee quarterbacks and the secondary; as well as a defensive coordinator.
Persons familiar with the new staff have told The Associated Press that O’Brien also plans to hire South Carolina special teams coach John Butler, who is from Philadelphia; and Central Florida defensive coordinator Ted Roof, barely a month after he had been hired by the Knights.
Roof had been named Central Florida’s defensive coordinator Dec. 8 after leaving Auburn following the regular season. He previously spent three seasons as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, including the 2010 national championship season.
From Paterno’s staff, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, offensive coordinator Galen Hall and several other assistants from Paterno’s staff are not expected to be retained. Paterno’s son, quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, and secondary coach Kermit Buggs have already said they will not return.
Paterno was fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Bradley, who served as the interim coach the final four games, had applied for the head-coaching job.