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.