Assistant Johnson Testing the Waters

Sources say Penn State's defensive line coach will talk to Illinois head coach Ron Zook this weekend.

It is difficult to keep a secret in the world of college football anymore. And Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson is finding that out the hard way.

Johnson, who has built a reputation as a strong recruiter and developer of NFL defensive line talent, has quietly been courted by several other programs the past few years. He opted to return to Penn State in every instance, and the contact from other schools basically went unreported.

This year however, things are different. Earlier this week, two web sites covering Illinois football reported that Johnson had been approached by Ron Zook about accepting a spot on the Illini staff.

We have since confirmed through sources close to the Nittany Lion football program that Johnson intends to talk to Zook in person this weekend. The position in question is said to be defensive coordinator, and we're told the meeting won't be an interview, per se, but rather a chance for Johnson to see if he is comfortable with the situation.

Illinois currently has co-defensive coordinators in secondary coach Curt Mallory and linebackers coach Dan Disch.

In related news, FOS has learned that when Penn State head coach Joe Paterno signed a three-year contract extension in December, provisions were included to give four-year extensions to his staff.

Johnson joined the Penn State staff in 1996. The first-team All-Americans he has coached include Courtney Brown, Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali and Aaron Maybin.

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