Penn State eyes Franklin, Munchak
Donnie Collins, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Updated Jan 4, 2014 at 1:03 PM
(MCT) – On a wild Friday of speculation and reports that fell apart quickly among the uncertainty and rapidity of Penn State's coaching search, all that remains certain is what the university already knew.
The man currently in charge of the program would like to stay that way.
"Why not Larry Johnson?" Penn State's interim coach Larry Johnson Sr. asked during a conference call with beat writers early Friday afternoon. "You know, I've been here 18 years and I know the lay of the land very well."
Even he couldn't have predicted the craziness that ensued around the state.
Johnson officially announced his candidacy just hours before a report that the university had offered the job to University of Miami head coach Al Golden was both circulated and subsequently debunked.
Golden was previously scheduled to meet with Miami media Monday, a press conference that is still slated to be held.
A day after athletic director Dave Joyner vowed Penn State's 16th head coach would be named in "days, rather than weeks," rumors spread like a virus over social media sites that Joyner may have undersold the speed of the search.
One, from the website coachingsearch.com, had Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin heading to Happy Valley for an interview Sunday. Various reports later emerged that Franklin is one of the two finalists, along with Louisville's Charlie Strong, to replace Mack Brown at Texas.
Franklin, according to sources, is one of three coaches Penn State most desired to interview for the job, joining Golden and Scranton native and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak. But after a meeting in Houston with Titans owner Tommy Smith and general manager Ruston Webber on Friday morning, all indications point to Munchak returning as head coach in 2014, The Tennessean reported.
As for Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, another strong candidate for the Penn State job, he has emerged as a candidate for the head coaching vacancy with the Detroit Lions.
Any of these candidates still could wind up interviewing at Penn State, obviously. As could other candidates who haven't been named publicly.
Johnson hopes Penn State won't feel the need to go through with all the fuss.
Sleepless nights have followed his appointment by Joyner as interim coach Tuesday, as he works hard both to keep the talented 2014 recruiting class that committed to former coach Bill O'Brien together and unite the returning players.
That job has taken some work, but it has gone well, he said. Johnson wouldn't talk about what he has been telling recruits, but he said he has spoken to all of them. He said he is confident guys like Christian Hackenberg, Penn State's star quarterback, will return to campus Jan. 13 ready to go.
The defensive line coach at Penn State since 1996, Johnson has not often shown interest in head coaching jobs. In fact, he once turned down the defensive coordinator's job at Virginia to stay on with Joe Paterno's staff. But now, he said he'd jump at the chance to be the head coach for the sake of the players and the program.
"I'm going to let my work stand for itself," he said. "My belief and my principles and my passion for the university and the players, I think that speaks volumes.
"I'm not going to do anything different. I'm not going to change who I am to try and get this job."