Although the rumor has been making its rounds for a little while now, Sports Illustrated has confirmed that Larry Johnson Sr. is officially moving on to Ohio State. Coach Johnson will end his career as a Nittany Lion after 19 wonderful seasons (15 as the defensive line coach). Johnson will be sorely missed by Penn State in more ways than one, as he was not only a brilliant coach on the field who continually got the absolute best out of his players, but one of the most successful recruiters on the east coast as well.
Johnson, who was previously a head coach for Maurice J. McDonough High School (Pomfret, MD) and T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia (anyone here remember the Titans?), was known for constantly churning out stud defensive lineman after stud defensive lineman. During his time at Penn State, his line produced five First-Team All Americans (Devon Still, Tamba Hali, Michael Haynes, Jimmy Kennedy, and Courtney Brown), and four first round NFL draft choices (Hali, Haynes, Kennedy, and Brown who went 1st overall). All it takes is a short glance back at the last decade or so of Penn State teams to see how he was able to bring out the best in his players. From Jared Odrick, to Devon Still, to Jordan Hill, to DaQuan Jones, every year there was a new player stepping up to the plate -- and it goes back much further than that. Each and every year a new force appeared in the middle of the line, who would assume a leadership role for the entire defensive squad. Coach Johnson did everything from help four-star recruits reach their lofty expectations (like Odrick), to helping two-star recruits prove their recruiting rankings wrong (like Hill).
To see the impact Johnson had in recruiting, one needs look no further than this 2014 class. Thomas Holley committed to Penn State almost solely because of his relationship with Johnson. I was told by one recruit that the every defensive recruit would stay on board no matter who the head coach ended up being, as long as Johnson stayed on (Luckily for us, James Franklin is an awesome enough coach on his own that we will most likely keep almost all of those guys anyway). Johnson's reputation as a recruiter was well known by college and high school coaches, particularly in Pennsylvania and the DC area. His knowledge of those areas and of those coaches, will definitely be missed, and unfortunately for all of us with a soul, Ohio State will certainly benefit from his reputation for those areas in that regard.
Larry Johnson will be moving on to coach the Buckeyes defensive line. I'm sure many of you know this by now, but the sick and twisted irony is in the process that led to this. Bill O'Brien leaves Penn State for the Texans. Penn State is sad, and Ohio State is happy. Bill O'Brien hires Mike Vrabel to be his defensive line coach. Penn State is happy, Ohio State is sad. Ohio State hires Larry Johnson to coach their defensive line. Penn State is sad, Ohio State is happy. So in reality, it's all O'Brien's fault! Feel free to send him bags of dog feces at your leisure.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time sharing my opinions, because you'll hear more about that from Jared tomorrow, so instead I'll summarize into a few thoughts: I love Larry Johnson, and he honestly deserves to do whatever he wants. He gave this school 19 amazing years of dedication and hard work. That much is certainly true. Had he been making a move to a smaller school to try his hand at being a defensive coordinator, and hopefully getting a shot at a bigger school before he finally called his career quits, I would have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever.
However, this is a lateral move. A lateral move to a rival school of the one he was a part of for 19 years no less. I understand that he is probably upset about not getting the head coaching gig, but honestly, did he really expect to get the job over candidates like James Franklin, Al Golden, Mike Munchak, and Greg Roman, just to name a few people who were allegedly candidates? Men who all have experience as either head coaches or coordinators for top tier teams? I'm sorry Larry, but I don't know how a search committee could deem that a long time defensive line coach would be a better choice than any of them, despite his pedigree at that position, and his reputation. I love ya LJ and I wish you the best (except against PSU), but I think this is all a little silly.
But there's not much we can do now, other than get really excited about Sean Spencer. It's a new day everyone. Nothing better to do than go all out and embrace it. Go State.