Sunday, July 13, 2014

PSU losing much of O’Brien’s staff

January 07. 2014 12:24AM

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Though he knew it could largely be a formality, Penn State interim coach Larry Johnson said he expected all of Bill O’Brien’s former staff to be in the office Monday.

A day later, the second floor of the team’s Lasch Building headquarters is set to be very sparse indeed.

Penn State announced Monday it had received resignations from defensive coordinator John Butler, receivers coach Stan Hixon, running backs coach Charles London, safeties coach Anthony Midget and strength coach Craig Fitzgerald.

Though no official announcements have been made, all five are expected to join O’Brien with the Houston Texans.

O’Brien met with the former Texans staff over the weekend and cleaned house, firing everyone but the defensive line coach.

Hixon, Butler, Midget and London will soon be introduced as Texans coaches, according to ESPN. Fight On State first reported Monday that Butler and Fitzgerald would be leaving to take jobs with the Texans.

Two of Fitzgerald’s assistants, Sean Hayes and Dwight Galt IV, have also resigned and could be candidates to follow their boss. Likewise, O’Brien right-hand man Jim Bernhardt — listed as special assistant to the head coach — has resigned. O’Brien said Friday he hoped to bring Bernhardt along to Houston.

The deconstruction of the Nittany Lions staff began in December when the school announced the resignations of linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher. The Lions also lost player personnel director Bill Kavanaugh, who left last month to become head coach at Division II Bentley, his alma mater.

As of Monday evening, the Lions had just three coaches still employed. Johnson is joined by offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and tight ends coach John Strollo.

Johnson, who has applied for the full-time job and is in line for an interview, has been extremely busy staying in contact with both current players and recruits during this uncertain time.

What’s it been like for him with most of his colleagues packing their bags?

“Losing a lot of sleep,” Johnson said with a laugh Friday. “Working pretty long hours just trying to man everything and keep things moving forward, reaching out to current players on our squad and talking to those guys.

“It really is about communication right now — communicating to our players and our future players and continuing to move the ships. We’re going to plan for official visits (Jan. 17-19). We’re planning that. We’re going business as usual, we’re not going to slow it down. We’re going to move forward until a coach is named.”

As to when that could be, it would be a surprise if Penn State isn’t introducing its man by this weekend.

As expected, reliable information has been hard to come by as Penn State has tried to keep details of the coaching search under wraps.

The scramble to solve the puzzle has led to all sorts of contradictions that can be difficult to sort through.

Multiple outlets in Miami had Hurricanes coach Al Golden ready to be introduced in Happy Valley as soon as Monday. Then Golden released a statement Sunday saying he was not a candidate for another job.

Golden appeared on his regular radio show on Monday morning before holding his season wrap-up press conference. He declined to go into any specifics about interest in or from Penn State.

“The biggest thing is I’m not a candidate for another position, and I stand behind the statement I made yesterday,” Golden said.

“From a professional standpoint I’ve never discussed any other positions. As I said, I’m not a candidate. I’m excited to be here.”

Then there’s the case of Scranton’s Mike Munchak, who was fired by the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. Munchak told The Tennessean that he had not interviewed for the Penn State job on Sunday.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen responded that Munchak “absolutely” interviewed with Penn State in Nashville on Sunday.

The future of Vanderbilt coach James Franklin may be the toughest read of all. Penn State may have had an opportunity to also talk to Franklin in Nashville on Sunday, though it’s not clear if an interview actually took place.

Franklin has been linked to several high-profile jobs including Penn State and is also being sought for interviews with multiple NFL teams.

The charismatic Commodores boss spent Monday on TV with ESPN as part of coverage of the national title game but gave no hints as to where he might be for 2014.

The most he said Monday came on an appearance during ESPN’s “BCS Countdown” show when he called the interest in him “a tremendous compliment to our program and our kids.”

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