With Franklin at Penn State, what happens next for Larry Johnson?


One of the first staff decisions Bill O’Brien made official once he was introduced as Penn State’s head coach two years ago was retain defensive line coach Larry Johnson. He announced the news during his introductory press conference. Will James Franklin be doing the same?

Johnson is an unbelievably loved and respected coach to Penn State players so it was no surprise he received plenty of support to become the new Penn State head coach when the job was still vacant. Johnson was named the interim head coach after O’Brien left for the Houston Texans and was one of the two holdovers from Joe Paterno‘s coaching staff. Johnson’s responsibilities were with the defensive line but his overall impact on the recruiting trails have been well documented since arriving at Penn State.

When asked about his interest in the job opening, Johnson confirmed he would be interested in being named the head coach at Penn State. When it became clear Franklin was the target for the Nittany Lions, Johnson was reportedly disappointed in the developments. According to The Patriot News, Johnson did interview for the job and is committed to fulfilling his interim duties until no longer needed. Where it gets interesting from there is how Johnson handles being passed over for a promotion once again.

Johnson has turned down an opportunity for an expanded role elsewhere to remain at Penn State in his role as defensive line coach and top recruiter. When Tom Bradley did not get the job at Penn State some had hoped Johnson would before O’Brien was hired. Again, once O’Brien left there was a section of fans and players who pledged their support for Johnson to get the job. Now comes an interesting point in time where Johnson must see if there is a place on Franklin’s staff available, and what position might that be?

Vanderbilt had a respectable defense under the guidance of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. The Commodores were generally outmatched when it came to talent level, but Vanderbilt ranked in the top half of the SEC in rushing defense, passing defense and total defense in 2013. Vanderbilt was also one of the top defenses when it came to turnovers forced, sacks and tackles for loss. If Shoop makes the move to Penn State with Franklin, how would Johnson respond? You coudl probably forgive him if he feels slighted, although it should be a priority by Penn State to do what they can to keep him a part of the staff in some capacity he is comfortable with.

To his credit, Johnson has taken on the role of good and loyal soldier at Penn State under extreme circumstances without asking for too much in return. If he wanted to leave the program by now, he would have been able to find a spot elsewhere in a moment’s notice. Johnson will make a very good assistant coach for some program in 2014. Whether that is at Penn State or not is one of the first questions Franklin will have to answer.

North Carolina formally announces hiring of ex-Tennessee RBs coach Robert Gillespie

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The latest addition to Larry Fedora‘s North Carolina coaching staff has been confirmed.

Following up on reports that surfaced earlier this month. UNC announced Wednesday that Fedora has hired Robert Gillespie. While not confirmed by the football program in the release, it’s expected Gillespie will serve as the Tar Heels running backs coach, a position he’s held for most of his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Robert and his family to Chapel Hill,” Fedora said in a statement. “He has a well-earned reputation as a great offensive coach and recruiter, and he has a wealth of experience working with running backs at a very high level. We are happy to have him join our staff as we get into the bulk of spring practice.”

Gillespie fills the hole created by the departure of Gunter Brewer, who left as the Tar Heels’ wide receivers coach for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. It’s expected that Luke Paschall, currently the running backs coach, will assume Brewer’s role with receivers.

Gillespie, a former Florida running back, spent the past five seasons as the running backs coach at Tennessee. He was originally retained by new UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt before parting ways with the football program shortly after National Signing Day.

In addition to UT, Gillespie has spent time on coaching staffs at South Carolina (2006-08), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2011-12). He was the running backs coach at each of those stops.

Report: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury ‘just a sprain’

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears Alabama can breathe a sigh of relief on the injury front.

Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his LEFT (throwing) hand.  It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.

While there’s been nothing official yet from the football program or head coach, al.com, citing unnamed sources, writes that the injury “is believed to just be a sprain and he should be able to return to practice in at least a limited capacity at some point soon.”

Until then, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.

The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are engaged in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp.  That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.

John Calipari takes page out of Nick Saban’s playbook by warning of (rat) poison

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One’s a dot, two’s a line and three’s a trend as the old adage go and it appears rat poison for college players is now a burgeoning trend.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday ahead of Kentucky’s NCAA tournament game against Kansas State, Wildcats coach John Calipari took a page straight out of Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin’s playbook by warning his team of drinking the media “poison” the past few days.

“My challenge is making sure these kids don’t drink that poison. That poison being we have an easy road. There are no easy roads in this tournament,” said Calipari. “If they drink that poison, we’ll be done Thursday. If they don’t drink the poison, it’ll be a dog fight Thursday — let’s see what happens. Sometimes you wonder why they’re (the media) trying to paint that picture with my team — probably because they’re young and they know they don’t know better.”

Ok then.

At least the term Calipari is using isn’t out of thin air given that Saban infamously ranted on his team buying into the media’s discussion of being a good team as “rat poison” last season. For the record though, the rant by the basketball coach was prompted by a question that didn’t at all involve Kentucky having an easy path to the Final Four but was rather about team and individual goals.

It’s not often you think of Saban as a trendsetter but it seems he was certainly ahead of the curve when it came to labeling media talk as poison.

Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.