Larry Johnson, Penn State's defensive line coach and coach Joe Paterno's best recruiter, reportedly has been offered $400,000 to join Illinois coach Ron Zook's staff. It would be a great move for Johnson and a big plus for Zook and his Illini program.
Johnson wants to be a head coach. But his upward mobility at Penn State is being blocked by Tom Bradley, the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator. The staff also includes Ron Vanderlinden, who was Gary Barnett's defensive coordinator at Northwestern and later head coach at Maryland. Now he is in line to succeed Bradley.
If Johnson wants to become a head coach, he first must gain experience as a coordinator. By moving to Illinois, he could enhance his reputation. It is a practical move for him and a great addition for Illinois because Johnson is an even better recruiter than Mike Locksley, who left Illinois to become the head coach at New Mexico.
Not many recruiters are as good as Locksley but Johnson dominates Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia for Penn State, even more than Locksley did for Illinois. He brought in Derrick Williams, starting the pipeline of great talent to Penn State from that region at a time when the program was struggling. Now the question is: Will Penn State match or better Illinois' offer to keep Johnson?
If you want to compete with the major programs around the country, if you want to contend with Ohio State in the Big 10, you must be willing to pay big bucks for outstanding assistant coaches. The Big 10 and Notre Dame hardly ever do that. But to keep up with the Yankees, you have spend money for quality coaches.
SEC schools such as Alabama, Florida and Tennessee do it. Any wonder why they are among elite programs in the country? To be competitive, the Big 10 must recruit talent from the South. Zook and Brewster are hiring great recruiters.
Here is an example: Tennessee hired Lane Kiffin as head coach. He is recognized as a national recruiter. He has USC bloodlines. He hired his father Monte, known as the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. He also hired former Mississippi coach Ed Ogeron as defensive line coach for a reported $800,000. And he brought in former Purdue offensive guru Jim Chaney from the St. Louis Rams as offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.
In another coaching move, Mount Carmel graduate Kevin Cosgrove has been hired at Minnesota. He is expected to recruit the Chicago, St. Louis and Indiana areas for coach Tim Brewster. Acknowledged as one of the best recruiters when he worked that area as an Illinois assistant, Cosgrove also has served as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Nebraska and will fill the same position at Minnesota.