Quick confession: Larry Johnson, Sr. isn't my top choice to become the next Penn State head coach. James Franklin and Al Golden are my 1a/1b choices.
Now that we've established that much, let's consider the absolute nightmare/nuclear disaster scenario: Charlie Strong has a change of heart and decides to remain at Louisville instead of taking the Texas job, the Longhorns end up hiring Franklin, and Al decides to stay at Miami after reading countless 'Canes message board posters hoping he will bolt to Penn State, just to spite those bastards...Enter LJ Sr.
Having been a part of the Penn State coaching staff since 1996, LJ is the bridge between the Paterno-O'Brien-O'Brien's successor eras, the one constant amidst a sea of change. Shortly after Bill O'Brien headed back to the NFL, LJ was immediately named interim head coach and has hit the ground running in the last few days, being the contact person/Oracle/caretaker of the current players and incoming recruits. Furthermore, he has entered himself into consideration for the permanent head coaching gig, and not without good reason. As Devon noted in a post the other day, LJ has already received numerous endorsements from current and former players to have the interim tag removed from his current title.
LJ of course, is best known by us fans as the guy who has masterfully crafted fine defensive lines over the past decade and a half, having produced seven All-Americans and twelve NFL draft picks (five of them in the first round), including Courtney Brown, Tamba Hali, and Jared Odrick, just to name a few. He's also the Pied Piper of the DC/MD/VA football recruiting scene, a result from having been a high school coach in that region prior to coming to PSU. LJ has managed to snag countless top recruits from his old stomping grounds over the years, most notably, current NFL Pro Bowler Navorro Bowman. He's also cited as the main reason why many defensive recruits ended up coming to PSU over the years. In fact, Thomas Holley, a current PSU commit and five-star DT, has publicly stated that his decision to stick with his PSU commitment squarely depends on whether LJ remains on the next staff. Removing the interim tag from LJ surely would put to rest any possibility of him going elsewhere.
There are of course, giant question marks regarding LJ. Most notably, the fact that he hasn't been a head coach since his high school coaching days, and has never held a defensive coordinator position at the college level. Is it reasonable to expect a guy who has only had to focus on coaching one position his entire college coaching career, to suddenly be the CEO of a massive college football operation like PSU's, responsible for making sure all the other positions are functioning properly?
Furthermore, aside from the possibility of re-hiring Ron Vanderlinden to coach the linebackers, it is anyone's guess as to who LJ would tab to be offensive coaches and to fill out the remainder of his defensive staff. Does he have enough contacts established to comprise a top-notch staff? Also, at age 61, his hiring as permanent head coach would seem more like a stop-gap measure as opposed to a long-term solution for the program, as we have no idea just how much longer he actually plans to coach (let's just presume for a moment, that unlike Joe Paterno, LJ has hobbies outside of football).
That being said, if neither of the obvious front-runners pan out, it is worth giving a serious look at the possibility of giving LJ a crack at being the head honcho in Happy Valley. To paraphrase the man himself from yesterday's teleconference: "Why not Larry Johnson?"