Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans have reportedly come to terms on a deal, according to an ESPN report, among others. And that means the search for Penn State to find its new man is on.
While Houston got a head start on its coaching search after firing Gary Kubiak in the first week of December, Penn State will be left scrambling for a new head coach more than a month after its season's close, with O'Brien reportedly bolting. Several names have popped up as potential successors to the second-year O’Brien. Let’s take a deeper look at those who could be considered top candidates:
James Franklin – PennLive columnist David Jones reported Monday afternoon that the current Vanderbilt coach sits atop Penn State’s wish list, citing anonymous Penn State sources in the report. Franklin, who deflected questions during a press conference Monday about his future with the Commodores, has ties to Pennsylvania, as he grew up in Langhorne and played college ball at East Stroudsburg. Franklin, 41, has led Vanderbilt to three straight bowl appearances, along with winning records in the SEC in the last two years. Franklin’s program, however, came under fire last summer when four players were implicated in a rape case. In November, attorneys subpoenaed texts from members of Franklin’s coaching staff, but the case is ongoing.
Greg Schiano – NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport reported Sunday that Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner, who has made no public comment since rumors began flying, was mulling a trip to Tampa Bay to make an in-person push for now-former Buccaneers' coach Greg Schiano. The former Rutgers' coach, who was fired from his position with the Bucs Monday, struggled mightily in leading Tampa Bay to an 11-21 record over two years. However, Schiano saw much more success in the college realm, leading soon-to-be Big Ten opponent Rutgers to six bowl appearances in his last seven seasons at the school. Schiano also has ties to Penn State – he served under Joe Paterno as a graduate assistant in 1990 and then as the defensive backs coach until 1995.
Mike Munchak – The former Penn Stater reportedly was on the Nittany Lions’ short list in 2011 prior to O’Brien’s hire, and now awaits his fate with the Tennessee Titans. While Munchak is still the Titans' coach, his status remains up in the air after he led the team to a 22-26 record over three seasons — just 6-12 against the AFC South since 2011. Munchak deflected questions about his future with the Titans during a press conference today. A guard under Joe Paterno from 1979 to 1981, Munchak entered the NFL draft with one year left of eligibility and was the first offensive lineman chosen.
Al Golden – ESPN analysts Lou Holtz and Mark May speculated Saturday that Miami coach Al Golden may want to return to his roots in Happy Valley. Golden, whose contract in Miami isn’t up until 2020, also deflected questions Friday to reporters about his status as a coach whom other schools may have interest in, saying “There’s never been a better time to be at the University of Miami.” Golden, a three-year letterman (1989-91) at Penn State, held the head coaching position at Temple for five years prior to taking the Miami job in December of 2010.
Larry Johnson – Penn State's current defensive line coach, Larry Johnson, interviewed for the head coaching job prior to O’Brien’s hire, and could interview again with the Penn State job opening up once more. Johnson, in his 18th year of coaching with Penn State, is one of the Nittany Lions’ most experienced recruiters. He is the only coach still remaining on staff who once worked under Joe Paterno.
Stay tuned with the Collegian as the Penn State coaching news continues.
Anna Orso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @anna_orso.