Penn State formally announces hiring of six football assistants

Penn State formally announced Thursday the hiring of five assistant coaches who will serve on the staff of new head coach Bill O’Brien, and disclosed that O’Brien would call the plays and not hire an offensive coordinator.

The appointment of a sixth assistant, defensive line coach Larry Johnson, was disclosed Saturday by O’Brien at his introductory press conference in State College. Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, named to be linebackers coach, are holdovers from the staff of former head coach Joe Paterno.

The other assistants named by O’Brien were assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, running backs coach Charles London, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and tight ends coach John Strollo.

O’Brien, who as offensive coordinator at New England is preparing for the Patriots’ NFL playoff game Saturday night against Denver, is expected to name his final three assistants shortly as soon as the university’s employment procedures have been completed, a team spokesman said.

Public reports have the final three staff members as being defensive coordinator Ted Roof, secondary coach John Butler, who also may become special teams coordinator, and quarterbacks coach George Godsey.

Earlier this week, O'Brien was believed to be considering former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen to be his offensive coordinator but decided to do the play calling himself.

Having six assistants in place is vital as O’Brien’s staff hits the road starting Friday for the final stage of open recruiting of high school athletes. Penn State currently has oral commitments from 14 players, many of whom have been reconsidering their decision in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal and the long wait for the university to hire a new head coach.

Hixon, London, McWhorter and Strollo all have coached with O’Brien on the staffs of either Georgia Tech or Duke. Roof was O’Brien’s boss as Duke head coach, and Godsey played quarterback at Georgia Tech in 2001 when O’Brien was the offensive coordinator.

“I said last weekend we were going to put together the best staff for Penn State and I firmly believe we have done that,” O’Brien said in a statement. “It was crucial to get an experienced, passionate and enthusiastic staff together quickly so they can hit the ground running.

“All of these coaches have varied and successful backgrounds coaching in the NFL, college, and high school throughout the country. They have developed extensive relationships with coaches that will be vital in our recruiting efforts. They are excited to meet our current players, get on the road and become part of the Penn State football family.”

Hixon and London are coming directly from the NFL where they coached with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, respectively. McWhorter is returning to coaching after a year off following nine seasons at Texas, and Strollo is moving to Penn State from Ball State.

--Joe Juliano