COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Larry Johnson, who spent the past 18 years as an assistant at Penn State, is joining Ohio State’s staff as an assistant head coach and defensive line coach.
Johnson was Penn State’s interim coach before James Franklin was hired for the top job on Saturday. Johnson replaces three-year Buckeyes assistant Mike Vrabel, who left his alma mater to work for former Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien with the Houston Texans.
Seven of Johnson’s Penn State defensive linemen were first-round NFL draft picks.
Ohio State still must replace co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers, who took the head coaching job at James Madison.
"I am very pleased that Larry Johnson is an Ohio State Buckeye," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "I have great respect for him as a family man, as a coach and mentor of young men, and as a recruiter. He is an outstanding addition to our coaching staff."
Johnson, who grew up in Williamston, N.C., and is a 1973 graduate of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University with a degree in health and physical education, has coached along the defensive line for 18 years at Penn State, including the last 14 seasons (2000-13) overseeing the entire unit. He spent his first four seasons at Penn State — 1996-99 — as defensive ends coach and special team’s coordinator.
Ohio State is Johnson’s second collegiate coaching stop. His career includes 20 years of high school coaching in Maryland and Virginia.
"In just a few hours I can tell that Ohio State cares about football," Johnson said. "There is a winning tradition that is important here. They care about academics and they care about players, and I like the way Coach Urban Meyer approaches things. He’s a great teacher. He is very organized and this is what I was looking for.
And I am really impressed with the Ohio State players. I just met a group of players, walked out of the room and thought, ‘wow,’ these are the kinds of players I want to coach. They were really impressive."