Johnson leaving Penn State

Larry Johnson has been one of the most valuable assistant coaches in the country for many years, but his tenure at Penn State is now over – by his choice.

Johnson was offered a chance to stay on as defensive line coach by new head coach James Franklin, but Johnson decided to turn down the offer. He explained his reasons why Monday night to and said he does plan to continue coaching elsewhere.

“I’ve thought a lot about this, I’ve prayed about it and this is what I want to do,” Johnson said. “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.”

He later said, “This is not the end for me, it’s just the end of my time at Penn State. There is a lot left for me to do with football and I am not done. I am just thankful for the time I had at Penn State and with my players.”

Johnson, 61, had served as the Nittany Lions’ interim head coach from the time Bill O’Brien left until Franklin was hired.

Johnson did not return a message from the Mirror to further explain his decision. He did tell the Reading Eagle that his decision to leave had nothing to do with not getting the head coaching job.

Johnson spent 18 years at Penn State, took over as defensive line coach in 2000 and was highly successful in those duties as well as becoming one of the top recruiters in the northeast, if not the country.

He has coached numerous All-Americans and future NFL players, including Tamba Hali, Jared Odrick, Devon Still and Jordan Hill.

O’Brien decided to keep Johnson as a holdover from Joe Paterno’s staff, a move that helped stabilize the program and recruiting. When O’Brien left for the Houston Texans, many current and former players championed Johnson as PSU’s new head, and he did get an interview before the search committee decided on Franklin from Vanderbilt.

Franklin is expected to bring his defensive line coach from Vanderbilt, Sean Spencer, to PSU as Johnson’s replacement. Bob Shoop is expected to become the Lions’ defensive coordinator, the same role he held with the Commodores.