Is Larry Johnson Headed to Ohio State?

Penn State's longtime defensive line coach will not be a part of James Franklin's new Nittany Lion staff. Now comes a report that he is close to a deal with the Buckeyes.

Larry Johnson's long run as an assistant coach at Penn State has come to an end. Monday evening, Johnson told the Harrisburg Patriot-News he will not be a part of new head coach James Franklin's staff.

And a Sports Illustrated report suggests he is headed to Ohio State.

Johnson told Bob Flounders of the Patriot-News he was offered the chance to return to the PSU program as defensive line coach, but opted against it. He also told the paper he intends to keep coaching.

A key quote to the paper:

"I want to say that I am very appreciative of all that went into my time at Penn State, all the players I've coached and all of the associations that I have,'' Johnson told the Patriot-News. "But I've thought a lot about this, I've prayed about it and this is what I want to do. I wish Coach Franklin and Penn State the best but it's time for me. It's a very difficult time but I want to thank the fans, the players, and Penn State. I mean that.''

Later Monday, Sports Illustrated reported that "Ohio State is on the cusp of poaching one of Penn State's assistant coaches," and said the program was close to signing Johnson. An FOS source with knowledge of the situation said the report was accurate.

In any event, this brings to a close Johnson's highly successful run with the Nittany Lions, most of which was spent coaching the defensive line. Johnson joined the program in 1996 and over the years has sent numerous defensive linemen on to the NFL, including six first-round draft picks. He coached seven first-team All-Americans.

When Bill O'Brien resigned to become head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans earlier this month, Johnson was named interim head coach at Penn State. He was the last remaining holdover from the late Joe Paterno's staff.

He interviewed for the top spot last Tuesday, and over the last two weeks former Nittany Lions took to Twitter to support him in his bid to replace O'Brien.

When he was introduced as head coach Saturday, Franklin was asked specifically if Johnson would remain on the staff. He was vague in his answer but repeated he would be most loyal to the assistants who were with him at Vanderbilt.

“We're going to sit down and talk to current coaches,” Franklin said. “We're going to talk to the coaches that have Penn State ties. Again, as I mentioned before, I'm fiercely loyal to the guys that were at Vanderbilt with me.”

Johnson was also one of Penn State's top recruiters. Working against him may have been the fact that the region where he was most effective -- from Delaware, through Maryland and down to Virginia -- also happens to be an area where Franklin has been successful.

Johnson was the lead recruiting on one of the top recruits in Penn State's Class of 2014 — New York defensive tackle Thomas Holley. Scout.com's Brian Dohn reports that Holley has not yet decided if he will remain committed to Penn State or re-open his recruitment.


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