Penn State Football

Penn State football: Assistant coach Larry Johnson to oversee Nittany Lions during search for Bill O’Brien’s replacement

Penn State assistant coach Larry Johnson Sr. will serve as interim head coach as the university searches for Bill O’Brien’s successor.

A Penn State source said Johnson, who coaches defensive linemen, has agreed to work with the players currently on the roster and maintain contact with recruits. The source also said the university will move quickly to name the next Nittany Lions head coach.

According to various media reports, O’Brien has agreed to coach the NFL’s Houston Texans. Penn State did not receive formal resignation notice from O’Brien on Wednesday, and the Texans had not confirmed that a deal was done.

Johnson did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment on his interim role.

“Penn State is sensitive to the need to communicate with current players and to move quickly to protect the recruiting class,” the source said.

Penn State has formed a search committee and a short list of candidates has been developed. The list includes former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano; former Penn State all-American and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak; former Penn State player and current University of Miami coach Al Golden; James Franklin of Vanderbilt; and perhaps a few others.

The source could not say if Johnson is a candidate to become the head coach permanently. Johnson is the last remaining holdover from the late Joe Paterno’s staff.

“Penn State has no intentions of getting involved in a long search process, like two years ago (when O’Brien was hired away from the NFL’s New England Patriots),” the source said. “This will be a process that moves very quickly.”

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