Penn State assistant coaches face uncertain future

DALLAS - On Monday afternoon, after Penn State has concluded its tumultuous season with a game against Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, Larry Johnson might begin to ponder his future.

But until then, the Nittany Lions' co-defensive coordinator insists he's focused on game planning to stop Houston quarterback Case Keenum and the Cougars' high-powered offense.

"I was hired to coach. That's what I'm going to try to do," Johnson said before practice on Friday. "At 3:05 on Jan. 2, then maybe I'll reflect on where it goes from there. But right now I'm in a good place."

With a new head coach on the way in the coming weeks, it's very likely that Penn State's current coaches will be forced to move on from jobs held for much of their lives.

The staff pieced together by recently fired coach Joe Paterno includes many Penn State lifers. Interim coach Tom Bradley, who played for Paterno, is in his 33d year on staff. Offensive line coach Dick Anderson is in his 34th season, tight ends coach Bill Kenney his 24th and Johnson his 16th. The list goes on.

So what's next?

"A lot of people are talking to me about a lot of different things, whether it's coaching or it's some other things," said quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. The son of the former coach is an assistant of 17 years.

"Luckily, I got some good genetics from my parents, so I have the ability to do a couple of different things because I've got other interests."

When pressed further about his future aspirations, Jay Paterno joked, "Let's just say I'm not going to run for attorney general anytime soon, or governor or anything like that.

"I've got to see what's going on, sit down and talk to my wife and my kids. That's probably the first thing I'll do and see what they want to do."

Johnson, who is a favorite among his players, has developed many defensive linemen who went on to play in the NFL and is considered one of the top recruiters on the East Coast.

But aside from saying he would love to continue to coach football, Johnson deflected questions about his future. As did co-coordinator Ron Vanderlinden, Penn State's linebackers coach of 11 years.

"The future is right now," Vanderlinden said. "[I'm] getting ready for Houston and staying focused."

Johnson did confirm that he interviewed for Penn State's head coaching job in front of the search committee. Johnson said he was happy he got the opportunity to express his views and his passion for his job.

Vanderlinden and Jay Paterno have also reportedly interviewed, though neither would confirm that on Friday.

"I'm not denying it. I'm not confirming it," Jay Paterno said.

Offensive coordinator Galen Hall always said he would coach at Penn State until Joe Paterno retired. So when Paterno was fired, many assumed Hall would retire at season's end.

But when asked Friday about his future, the 71-year-old Hall expressed interest in a possible return under a different coach. Hall is finishing up his eighth year on Penn State's staff after many years of experience at nearly every level of competitive football.

 


Contact staff writer Jake Kaplan at jake.kaplan1@gmail.com or @jakemkaplan on Twitter.