Penn State Names Larry Johnson Interim Head Football Coach

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2014

USA Today/Matthew O'Haren

Larry Johnson has taken over as interim head coach of Penn State, according to Brandon Castel of

Penn State has officially confirmed Bill O'Brien as new head coach of the Houston Texans. D-line coach Larry Johnson named interim coach.

— Brandon Castel (@BCastOZone) January 2, 2014

Bob Flounders of first reported the news:

A source close to the PSU program told PennLive Wednesday that Johnson has been named interim head coach and he has been charged with the task of keeping the Lions' impressive 2014 recruiting class together as National Letter of Intent Day (Feb. 5), the first day a recruit can sign for his scholarship, approaches.

Johnson will maintain contact with all of the PSU verbal commitments (19), the source said. The Lions' top prospects include defensive lineman Thomas Holley, quarterback Michael O'Connor and wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Derek Levarse of The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre is a fan of Johnson taking over in an interim role and believes that this is a deserved honor for the coach.

This comes after news of Bill O'Brien's impending departure to the NFL to become the next head coach of the Houston Texans. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported O'Brien will receive a five-year deal from the team.

Flounders reported that James Franklin of Vanderbilt and Al Golden of Miami are among the names on Penn State's shortlist.

Although the Nittany Lions don't have any games until the 2014 college football season, it's important to at least have somebody in the head-coaching role in order to maintain some continuity. It can also calm potential recruits' concerns before a more permanent option is selected and ensure they don't think about signing elsewhere.   

Johnson has spent 18 years at the school, 14 of which have come as the defensive line coach. Having coached under both O'Brien and Joe Paterno, he is well-versed in Penn State football, so he'll offer a steady hand for the time being.

In addition, Johnson is no stranger to the recruiting trail. He's long been one of PSU's best recruiters and has already helped to reel in plenty among the 2014 class.

According to 247Sports, the Nittany Lions have the 17th-best class in the country at the moment, and it will be important to hold onto those recruits if they want to continue the rebuilding effort started by O'Brien.

While O'Brien's departure could have been proved troublesome for the school, Penn State looks to have secured at least its short-term future by naming Johnson as his interim successor.