DALLAS -- There are roughly 1,100 assistant coaches in Division I football, yet there aren't very many who are better at their jobs than Penn State's Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden.
It will be fascinating to see what happens to those two Nittany Lion coaches in particular in the wake of a scandal that could -- but hopefully won't -- taint anyone and everyone on the staff.
Johnson has done tremendous work with PSU's defensive line, coaching seven first-team All-Americans in 12 years, while Vanderlinden has carried on the tradition of Linebacker U by churning out NFL standouts Paul Posluszny, NaVorro Bowman and Sean Lee, as well as PSU career tackles leader Dan Connor.
Defensive line coach/acting co-defensive coordinator Larry Johnson
On their merits, Johnson and Vanderlinden should be able to land marquee assistant coaching jobs elsewhere, or perhaps head coaching jobs at mid- or lower-level Division I schools.
But will they be blackballed because of their association with Penn State? Will prospective schools shy away from them, at least in the short term, until more details emerge from the Jerry Sandusky scandal?
Johnson and Vanderlinden, also now serving as acting co-defensive coordinators, are good men who have done exceptional work. But at some point, other schools will be asking them the same questions we've all grown accustomed to hearing: What did they know about the Sandusky allegations, when did they know it and why didn't they come forward with the information?
Their answers will go a long way to determining their coaching futures, just as they will with interim head coach Tom Bradley.
Johnson on Friday said he has no concern about the possibility of being blackballed by other schools because of his ties to Penn State.
"That's not going to worry me, it's really not," he said. "I know who I am. I know the man I am. So when I speak, people are going to know I'm speaking the truth.
"I know what I've done, the work I've done," he added. "I hope it speaks for itself, and I hope somewhere down the road somebody's going to see that and they hire me and give me another job."
Johnson did confirm that he interviewed for the job to succeed Joe Paterno and said it went well. He wouldn't give any details about the interview or how it was conducted but did point out it was with the search committee.
"The one thing I said going in, I was really tickled I had the opportunity to go in and to really express my views and my vision and my passion for what I do. I'm really honored that I had the chance to do that," said Johnson, who added he was given no timeline by the committee for when a hire would be made.
Under normal circumstances, Johnson's resume would make him a strong candidate for the job. But these obviously are not normal circumstances, and if the school doesn't plan to hire an even better candidate in Bradley because it wants to clean house, then it would stand to reason that Johnson would have little or no shot.
It would be sadly ironic if Johnson's loyalty staying at Penn State the past few years and turning down other jobs might actually prevent him from getting the caliber of position he deserves.
Asked why he has stayed, Johnson said, "These players, this Penn State University, what they stand for, it's the people I've been around, having a chance to coach with Coach Paterno. When I first came here, he said some things to me that really [impacted] my life about exactly what I want to be. So when you think about those things, it's very easy to say no to some situations I have because I feel like I'm at home."
There has been speculation that Vanderlinden also has interviewed for the PSU job, but he politely declined to discuss that Friday. He does have head coaching experience -- at Maryland from 1997-2000 -- but he would probably be third in line behind Bradley and Johnson if Penn State wanted to stay in-house.
Vanderlinden did acknowledge the possibility of being blackballed by other schools.
"Yes, that's a possible concern, but hopefully that won't happen," he said.
Bradley indicated recently that some of the assistants already have been contacted by schools, so surely Johnson and Vanderlinden have gotten feelers.
"I'm a man of faith, and I think it will all work out for the good in the end," Vanderlinden said when asked if he's concerned about his future. "Sure, you think about it once in a while in the back of your mind. But being busy with football kind of keeps your mind off what might or might not happen, so I'm just trying to stay focused on the task at hand."
Two other assistants who face intriguing futures are quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno and offensive coordinator Galen Hall, a Williamsburg native.
Hall has said for years that he probably would coach as long as Joe Paterno would have him. Friday, he said the same thing about the next coach.
"If someone comes in and would like to keep me, sure, I'd be interested," Hall said. "We'll just have to wait and see."
Hall, a PSU alum who returned to his alma mater in 2004, has coached all over the country and even the world since 1964. The 71-year-old now faces the possibility that his final game could be just two days away.
"I really haven't thought about it, to tell you the truth," he said about ending his coaching career. "I don't know what I'd do. I'm sure I'll wake up and drink some coffee and see what happens."
Asked if he would consider taking a job somewhere else, Hall said, "It would have to be a special place. Where that is, I wouldn't know. But it would have to be a special place."
The most difficult decision of all probably belongs to Jay Paterno, who has five children and the most famous last name in State College history. His family is deeply rooted there, but if he is to remain in college coaching, it almost certainly would have to be elsewhere.
"I've got a lot of people talking to me about a lot of different things, whether it's coaching or whether it's some other things," said Jay, who would not confirm or deny reports that he has interviewed for the PSU job. "We'll see what it is. Luckily I got some good genetics from my parents, so I have the ability to do a couple different things because I've got other interests."
One of those interests is politics, and before the scandal it would have been conceivable that someday he would run for public office. Whether he could have won would have been a big question, and it would seem unlikely now that he could prevail in an election.
Jay tried to joke it off Friday by saying, "Let's just say I'm not going to run for attorney general any time soon, or governor or anything like that."
He plans to talk it over with his wife, Kelley, and children to determine what's best for the family before making a career decision.
"I don't want to get in the situation [where] I'm moving just to move," he said. "I want to see what's best for my kids first."
While there is still a lot of support for Joe Paterno in State College, there also are people critical of the former coach for how he handled the Sandusky allegations in 2002 and ever since. Jay Paterno was asked if things might be difficult on his kids growing up in State College because of their last name.
"I think once everything comes out and everybody sees everything that's happened, I don't think it will be tough," Jay said. "I think people will realize, without getting into any specifics, Joe conducted himself in a way that is consistent with his character, and I think we'll see that eventually."
What we all hopefully will find out eventually is how everyone associated with the Penn State football program and university handled the sensitive information they may or may not have had concerning the Sandusky allegations over the years. Those answers should come out in courtrooms -- either in criminal or civil cases -- but that process could take several years.
Until then, every coach on Penn State's current staff faces an uncertain future. Some may land on their feet with good jobs, some will retire, some will change careers.
If it were just about football, most of the better coaches on the staff would have nothing to worry about.
But the scandal has never been about football. It's about an unspeakable tragedy that has and will continue to change so many people's lives, especially the ones who knew about it but chose not to speak up.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.