Chicago Sun-Times
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Illini eying Penn State assistant Larry Johnson for defensive coordinator

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 Illinois is in discussions with Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson about becoming the new Illinois defensive coordinator, but Michigan also could be interested in hiring Johnson, sources said.
Johnson would be a great addition. He's done an excellent job of recruiting the Washington, D.C./Maryland turf vacated by Mike Locksley, including landing standout receiver Derrick Williams and a bunch of other top recruits. Although Penn State's defensive line had troubles against USC in the Rose Bowl, Johnson is a widely respected defensive line mentor. The Trojans give a lot of D lines trouble.
Coach Ron Zook and Johnson have scheduled a meeting for this weekend, sources said.  Johnson is a veteran Penn State assistant, whose two sons, Tony and Larry, played at Penn State, Tony at wide receiver, Larry at running back. But as a defensive coordinator, Johnson would receive a salary increase from his estimated $200,000 salary. Penn State is not known for boosting its assistants' pay, and Illinois is apparently willing to pay what's necessary in the increasingly competitive world of assistant salaries. That might be even more true after it lost offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who will make $325,000 a year with his move to South Carolina.
Due to the departure of Locksley, who was making $500,000, Illinois has money available for assistants. (Locksley's replacement at offensive coordinator, Mike Schultz, won't be making Locksley money.) Bringing in Johnson as defensive coordinator could be a delicate matter with current co-defensive coordinators Curt Mallory and Dan Disch. But Zook seems determined to upgrade his staff, and if he needs to use the coordinator position as a bargaining chip, that doesn't seem to be out of the question.

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4 Comments

Larry Johnson would have made an invaluable addition to the Illini helping not only with the defensive production but immensely with recruiting in the Northeast. Johnson was very interested in the position with Illinois however his wife was dead set against it, being too settled down, rooted and comfortable in her community. Larry Johnson loses a great opportunity to be Associate Head Coach and a step closer to being head coach some day, which was his dream. At Penn State he is mired in a long waiting game, years away from "maybe" being their Defensive Coordinator. Contrary to published reports from Pennsylvania, he is not staying at Penn State so much because of his love for his players and recruits and school loyalty. Larry Johnson's wife told him no way she's moving and that's all it took.

Larry Johnson would have made an invaluable addition to the Illini helping not only with the defensive production but immensely with recruiting in the Northeast. Johnson was very interested in the position with Illinois however his wife was dead set against it, being too settled down, rooted and comfortable in her community. Larry Johnson loses a great opportunity to be Associate Head Coach and a step closer to being head coach some day, which was his dream. At Penn State he is mired in a long waiting game, years away from "maybe" being their Defensive Coordinator. Contrary to published reports from Pennsylvania, he is not staying at Penn State so much because of his love for his players and recruits and school loyalty. Larry Johnson's wife told him no way she's moving and that's all it took.

Thank god Zook is concerned about upgrading his staff. It didn't matter who the other team was this past year, we were outcoached in every game, no exceptions. Upgrading the coaching staff should be priority #1 this offseason, that way we'll be able to determine if Zook's recruits are as good as they are hyped.

I like what Zook is doing. I was never a fan of the two-coordinator scheme on defense. I'm really not qualified to predict whether the changes will be beneficial, but on paper it looks good. If we get Johnson, that along with the addition of Schultz will widen the recruiting base. Both have good coaching backgrounds. The Illini obviously have room to improve and the more good people we have in the program, the better. It's a credit to Zook that he seems to want to surround himself with strong assistants, unlike a certain pro coach in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by Herb Gould published on January 7, 2009 3:34 PM.

O line coach Wolford leaves for South Carolina was the previous entry in this blog.

Larry Johnson weighing Illinois offer is the next entry in this blog.

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