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Reports: Al Golden and James Franklin are Penn State’s top targets for head coaching job

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday

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While Bill O’Brien was being introduced as the new head coach of the Houston Texans Friday morning, his former bosses at Penn State have their sights set on three candidates to replace O’Brien, according to reports.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy identified Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Miami’s Al Golden and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak as the University’s three targets for the position, while other reports indicate that Golden and Franklin are the school’s top two targets.

None of the names are surprises. In fact, all three names were linked to Penn State’s search in 2011 that yielded O’Brien. Golden and Munchak are both Penn State graduates who played under Joe Paterno and Franklin is a Pennsylvania native who attended Neshaminy High School in suburban Philadelphia before playing collegiately at East Stroudsburg.

ESPN’s Joe Schad linked Golden to Penn State due to his history at the school and the support of former Penn State players.

Football Scoop also reported that Golden to PSU is a “strong possibility.”

With Golden at the helm, Miami has gone 22-15, improving in each of Golden’s three seasons. Prior to the move to Miami, Golden was an assistant at Boston College, Penn State, and Virginia before taking the head job at Temple – and doing so with impressive results.

The Owls were 3-31 in the three years before Golden was hired in 2006. Golden left to take the Miami job following a 9-4 campaign in 2009 and an 8-4 record in 2010.

Franklin after short stints at several small schools, was the wide receivers coach at Maryland from 2000-2004, held the same position with the Green Bay Packers in 2005, and was the offensive coordinator for Kansas State (2006-2007) and Maryland (2008-2010) before taking the Vanderbilt job where he has a 23-15 record in three seasons.

Pete Roussel of coachingsearch.com is reporting that Franklin will interview with Penn State on Sunday after the Commodores play in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Saturday.

Meanwhile, longtime Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who has been named interim head coach, said he also plans on apply for the permanent head coach position.

“In 18 years at Penn State, I understand the Penn State culture and I understand exactly where we are. This is a great university and there’s some great players in that locker room and not to want to be a part of that, you’re crazy,” Johnson said.

Several current and former players have voiced their support for Johnson’s candidacy for the position.

“That’s special. You hope you build a relationship with players over the years that if things like this happen, they step to the plate. It’s about the relationship you build as a coach. It’s more than just coaching, it’s about impacting people’s lives,” Johnson said.

Johnson has been given the responsibility of keeping the current recruiting class together, and by all accounts, he seems to be doing a great job.

Penn State athletic director David Joyner said Thursday that he hopes to land a new coach in a matter of days, not weeks, so it seems like Penn State fans won’t have to wait long to learn of the school’s new coach.

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