The news that long-time defensive line coach Larry Johnson would be leaving the Penn State football program after 18 years broke overnight, and a somber air hangs over Turkeyland this morning. Although this turkey had predicted that he would leave, I feel sad.
LJ was apparently offered to keep his old job and declined after meeting twice with new head coach James Franklin, according to PennLive.com.
We tend to think of things selfishly in Nittany Nation, but before you impute any nefarious motives (usually pinned on guys like Joyner and Erickson because Franklin is still in his honeymoon period), consider that this might be a good time for LJ to continue his personal development as a coach elsewhere. For one thing, if he’s going to have to be part of a new system after being passed over twice or three times for an upgrade, why not look elsewhere? He’s 61 and has some short time horizons to accomplish his goals in life. Time marches on.
Rumor has it that “elsewhere” is Ohio State. (Feeling shudders across the fertile Central Pennsylvania soil.)
Yeah, we recoil in horror. Why would LJ want to defect to the enemy? Well, think about it. You’re 61 and in a dead-end job where you’re loved but stagnating. You’ve been turned down twice for the head coaching job, and there was no interest in making you defensive coordinator. You could keep your present job — but under what terms? Of course, the contents of the discussions between LJ and JF remain secret and will be the subject of the usual unsubstantiated Internet rumors. It’s pretty clear that Franklin wants his own staff and his own team, wants to do recruiting his way, and that he will undoubtedly hire a DC who would be the third under whom LJ has worked since St. Joe’s departure from the program and from this earth.
Have you ever left a job for greener pastures? Have you ever felt like you were getting passed over? Have you ever been pissed off about being pissed on? Have you ever had doubts about how you would fit into a new boss’ scheme? Lots of things must have been going through Larry’s mind. If indeed an offer from Ohio State is on the table and it represents a personal upgrade for him, more power to him! Penn State loves Larry and Larry loves Penn State. That won’t change. He is not defecting to the enemy. He is doing well for himself and his family.
Small world. Mike Vrabel was defensive line coach at OSU, creating a vacancy that was perfect for LJ. Where did Vrabel go? He’ll join fellow former New England Patriot Bill O’Brien in Houston.
But it ain’t official yet. After all, the Columbus Dispatch reported that LJ had not returned a text from them. LOL (STFU!)
James Franklin’s plan to dominate recruiting in the Keystone State has been dealt a significant blow, as Johnson brings his recruiting skills and long-term connections with him wherever he goes. Better he should go to UCLA than OSU, that’s for damn sure!
His coaching and his love for the players has been unquestionably excellent through the years. Under his watch, seven first-team All-America defensive linemen and six first-round NFL Draft picks were produced by Penn State. At least one, Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs, is an All-Pro who could be headed to the HoF.
Franklin won’t be introducing his assistants individually. He will announce his team when it is finally assembled and complete.
I think Franklin wants to assume the “daddy” role that has been LJ’s bailiwick and wanted to take firm control of recruiting. Couple those two things with a new DC and new philosophies, and the time was ripe for a change. LJ would be in a constrained box that he had not known for many years at Penn State as his influence and internal respect grew. So, after consideration, he’ll have new, fertile ground to plow, another major program on which to make his mark. It’s an exciting, albeit bittersweet, time for Larry and his family.
This is the last vestige of the St. Joe Administration slipping away. Two other holdover coaches from the O’Brien period, McWhorter and Strollo, were not part of the Paterno legacy. Their fate is unknown at the moment.
I’m sad to see him go, but I wish him well, always! You da man, LJ!