Purdue Week Q&A with Asst. Coach Larry Johnson

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions travel to Purdue on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kick (ESPNU) in Ross-Ade Stadium.

As the Nittany Lions put the final touches on the gameplan, take a look through some remarks from defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

8257923.jpegQ: On defensive end Deion Barnes...
Johnson
: "I think he has some really good skill sets.  I think down the road, he is going to be a really special player.  He reminds me a lot of Michael Haynes when he was coming through here - and a Tamba Hali skill set when he is using his hands.  He's just a young kid, so he has some growth to do, but certainly he has done a great job to be able to walk on the field as a young player and do the things he has done so far.  I think his future is really bright here at Penn State."

Q: What has this season been like for you?
Johnson
: "To be honest with you, I am having a great time.  I really am.  This is really a special year.  And it is special for a lot of reasons.  You have to be in the locker room to see these players and how hard they work, how resilient they are, how they understand the word perseverance.  It is really special to be around that.  For me, it has been exciting to see them grow every single day, continue to believe in one cause and have passion in what they do.  The amount of respect for each other says a lot about the leadership, but it also says a lot about the kind of guys we have in our locker room.  To me, it has been a very special year to see what our guys have gone through as a football team."

Q: What do you think it is about your personality that allows you to create a tight bond with your defensive line players?
Johnson
: "In coaching and in life and it whatever job you have, you have to show people you care.  I think I care.  I care about them, not only as football players, but young men.  I am not afraid to show my love and my passion.  I am not afraid to cry in front of my players because I am going to be myself.  I think I am very honest with my players.  I think that is the foundation with building a great relationship with young players - being honest, being upright; they know that I am tough.  I want them to be the best, and to be the best; I am going to push them to a level they have never been at before.  At the end of the day, you walk off the field; you hug them and tell them what a great job they did.  I think my players understand that.  Our relationship is really built on trust and caring."

Q: What is Jordan Hill doing even better than he did last year?
Johnson
: "I think when you understand schemes and when you understand blocking, you have that one more year of experience.  I tell guys all the time that it is important from your junior year to your senior year that you go another notch.  You can flat line as a junior and never get better as a senior.  And he has gotten better.  He is stronger.  His weight is certainly down from last year.  He is in great shape. And all of that adds to his ability to play fast.  I think that is the reason why he is having such a great year because he has changed himself, not only physically, he has grown and matured a lot in the football sense of the game."

Q: Can you elaborate on how close this defensive line group is?
Johnson
: "We do a lot of things together.  We eat together at my house a lot.  When the guys can't get home (summertime or holidays) they are at my place eating.  You build that as a family environment from day one.  This is the way it has always been.  It is not just this group; it has been every group I have coached.  We build on a family concept.  Because I want them to know the guy next to them.  When you do that, they will play harder for each other.  And I think that is important.  So we try to create a brand of family so our kids can be close together, get to know each other.  It's something we work on every day."

Q: What do you see from the Purdue offensive line and that offense?
Johnson
: "I think it is a typical Big Ten offensive line.  It is very athletic, very big, very long.  Their offensive line really helps them in the offensive scheme things they want to do.  Their center has played a lot of plays.  Their guards have played a lot of plays.  I think it is a really good, balanced offensive line.  And their offensive scheme has really helped them out.  You don't have to protect very long because the ball is out quick.  The run game is really creating a crack, and then let the back run.  It is a really balanced offensive line.  And they have a chance to go the distance at any time because they have great skill kids."


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