This is a bittersweet time for players and fans at Penn State. While the Nittany Lions have gained one of the hottest coaching prospects in former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, they have also just lost an outstanding and popular coach in the process. As Bob Flounders of PennLive.com reported Monday night, defensive line coach Larry Johnson will not be a part of Franklin’s staff.
According to Flounders, Johnson was offered the chance to stay on in his current role of defensive line coach, but he decided to move on.
Johnson, who served as the interim coach in the short time between former coach Bill O’Brien leaving for the NFL and the hiring of Franklin, has been on the staff since 1996. He started out as a special teams and defensive end coach before taking control of the entire defensive line in 2000. Johnson was the final coach left on the team who served under the late Joe Paterno. If ever there was someone who represented Penn State, it’s Johnson. He could be considered one of the faces of Penn State football and also had two sons, Tony and Larry Jr., play for the team during his time on the coaching staff.
Many thought Johnson had put in his time and should, at the very least, be offered the chance to be promoted to defensive coordinator. Instead, Franklin has chosen to bring Bob Shoop along to head the defense. Shoop served as defensive coordinator under Franklin at Vanderbilt.
During his time at Penn State, Johnson earned the reputation of being one of the best defensive line coaches in the nation and one of the best recruiters on the East Coast. His connections to different areas helped in bring in some of the best talent. Currently, Thomas Holley, one of the top defensive lineman in the country, is committed to Penn State. However, Johnson played a big role in recruiting Holley, and his departure may cause the talented player from New York to rethink his decision.
Johnson was responsible for coaching and developing many great defensive linemen over the years. Courtney Brown, Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jordan Hill are just some of the players who owe their success to Johnson.
With Johnson’s decision to leave, comes the end of an era at Penn State. A fresh coaching staff will take over the legacy of Penn State football that has already been built by those in the past and hopefully propel it further into the future.
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