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Penn State Football: Joyner And Program Offically Move Forward From O'Brien Era

by on January 02, 2014 2:14 PM

Penn State Athletic Director David Joyner took the podium on Thursday to address what has long become common knowledge -- that Bill O'Brien has taken the head coaching job with the Houston Texans and that the Penn State football program needs a replacement.

And Penn State needs one fast.

“I want to emphasize that we are happy for Coach O’Brien. We’re very grateful for the last two years here at Penn State,” Joyner says. ”I believe he always had Penn State’s best interest at heart but this was a tremendous opportunity that came up.”

During the press conference, Joyner announced a six-person search committee is already hard at work trying to replace O'Brien.

Joining Joyner on the search team are Faculty Athletics Representative Linda Caldwell, Associate Athletic Director Charmelle Green, Vice President for Administration Tom Poole, Wally Richardson Director, Penn State Football Letterman’s Club and Bob Warming Head Coach of the Men’s Soccer team.

Joyner also announced that defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr would stay at Penn State for the foreseeable future as interim head coach as reported by StateCollege.com on Wednesday. Johnson, a key asset on the recruiting trail is well respected by players. He will stay with the staff to help the program through the transition period. Johnson has already contacted players and will work with recruits while Penn State continues it search for a permanent head coach.

While Joyner said that the search team would interview Johnson if interested in the opening, there did not seem to be any indication that the search team or Johnson himself were considering it as a viable option for the program moving forward.

"Coach Johnson, as I said, is a tremendous individual," says Joyner. "And if Coach Johnson wants to get into this mix, he will be very much welcomed and will certainly get every strong consideration of someone of his stature."

“I’m humbled by the confidence that Penn State has bestowed upon me during this critical time for the football program and honored to do my part to help Penn State,” Johnson said in a statement. “This program has a historic past and very bright future and I look forward to continuing to work with the players, staff and our incoming recruiting class to uphold the tremendous traditions, ideals and principles that make Penn State the best University in the nation and the football program the most successful on and off the field.”

Sources close to the process have indicated that Penn State will move quickly with the search for O'Brien's replacement. January 15 marks the end of a recruiting dead period that prevents coaches from contacting recruits. With O'Brien no longer at Penn State, opposing coaches will look to speak with recruits who may now have a change of heart. So the quicker Penn State can find a replacement the better off the football program will be in the immediate future.

"We expect this search to be very timely," Joyner says. "Our anticipation is that we'll be counting this in a matter of days rather than weeks."

Penn State's search for O'Brien lasted nearly two months -- a fact that Joyner attributes the unique situation Penn State was in coming out of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Many of these immediate concerns have subsided, making the current search much more traditional in terms of timeline and procedure.

"I think that the atmosphere around this search is entirely ‑‑ is very much different than the last search," Joyner says. "There are a lot of similarities, but it's different in that I think it's a lot more attractive at this point although we had tremendous interest, even in spite of everything, two years ago.

"Some things we learned last time, we were very deliberate‑‑ we're going to be deliberate this time but faster, and we were deliberate and slower on purpose last time because of all the extra things that were going on around us.  It's probably the most difficult time, if not on any university campus, at least in any university athletic department from all the extra noise that was out there and all of it understandable.

"But at this time, there's more and more that can be focused on directly related to a coaching search, rather than trying to keep your finger in a dike, so to speak, at the same time that you're doing maybe the most significant head football coach search in history.

"So the atmosphere, the attitudes, the feeling around here ‑‑ we're very, very sorry to see Bill go.  He's a tremendous person and a tremendous football coach.  But every new challenge brings new opportunities.  So that's the way we look at it.  We look at it in a very positive way going forward."

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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