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Feb. 1, 2012
Defensive Line Coach Larry Johnson
Q: Talk about the transition and the process of getting players today.
A: Well, It has been an emotional ride; there is no question about that. I think a lot of credit goes to the former staff. They did a great job for two months with not having a head coach, having Tom Bradley as Interim Head Coach. They kept recruiting on the road, which set the foundation for where we are today. Then the new staff came in and really hit the ground running. They were really trying to get to know the kids, get to know the families and Coach O'Brien came into town and just continued to sell what Penn State is all about. I think that's the biggest thing that has happened.
Q: What about him juggling and trying to go back and forth, how is that whole process?
A: It was tough, but he was willing to do anything he could. He'd call recruits, Skype them. You name it, just to make sure. He would call every day, "Who do you want me to call? Who do you want me to touch base with?" So, you've got a Coach who is dying to recruit. That can't do anything but help us.
Q: The new coaches are crediting you as the one who has stabilized this. What have you done to guide this process?
A: They are professional coaches. They have been through this before. It's just keeping everybody organized, making sure we had a good enough relationship with the players we were recruiting, then evaluate from that point on. I think that was the biggest thing for me, just to keep everybody focused and moving forward.
Q: With everything going on, what was the most difficult? Trying to resell kids or keep them calm? What was this whole situation like?
A: Well, you are selling Penn State University, which is the biggest thing. I'll say this, the parents and the kids that stayed with us, they are all Penn State people. They really are. They stayed with us for all the right reasons. They did not waiver. They hung around to see what was going to happen. This signing class, they are going to be special kids. You will write about them again. They took a step, a leap of faith.
Q: To you personally, does that take on a new meaning with them committing here, with all the adversity and everything swelling around?
A: I think so. I think it is a different meaning. It says that they are committed to Penn State for all of the right things. They took some heat for staying with us, yet they did and that says a lot about the families we are bringing in. That's why this class is really exciting for us.
Q: What can you say about Coach O'Brien? How is he going to be, as you move forward with recruiting, do you really feel good about him?
A: No question about it. I think he will be a great asset, a great recruiter. He wants to recruit. He's been on a college team, he has done it. I think it just adds a new dimension to the nine guys we have on the new staff moving forward.
Q: With everything going on in the past few months, what kind of reactions were you getting from kids?
A: I think the biggest thing is the parents wanted to meet the head coach. They wanted to know exactly what Coach O'Brien was all about. We he got on campus, the first chance he got he would sit down for 30 to sometimes 45 minutes with each family to sell his values, what he is all about, what he was not going to change and that Penn State was moving forward. I think that was the biggest thing in the recruiting process to take the time out. It is a very long day, but parents walked away feeling pretty good about where we are at. The players were pretty excited as well.
Q: As far as the bigger names that committed (or were close to committing) to Penn State, how disappointing is it that they decided to go elsewhere?
A: It is not disappointing. They have a choice and need to make the decision that is best for them and their family. That's what they did and that is how we look at it. They guys we have in this class, these 19 guys, they are excited about Penn State and that is what it is all about. It is about who wants to be here.
Q: When you were talking to players with Coach Paterno, how much different is your message to them when talking with Coach O'Brien?
A: Same message. It is still keeping high keeping high academics, get the right players who want to win in the classroom off the field, and compete on the field along with get a degree from Penn State University, and that sells itself. It is the same philosophy.
Q: Tell me about Evan Schwan, being injured last year and his playing this year, why did you guys like him?
A: Evan got hurt his junior year but then busted out in his senior year. We knew about him, he was at our camp two years in a row, so, he was not a surprise. We saw who were the best guys available, we made the phone call and he felt this was a great fit for him. He's a great football player and he's going to do a lot for us