Less than a week ago, Mike Vrabel stunned Buckeye fans by deciding to leave Columbus to coach alongside former Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien by accepting a linebackers coaching position with the Houston Texans of the NFL.
Vrabel was doing a very good job developing defensive linemen at Ohio State, but his most important role came out on the recruiting trail, where he played a pivotal part in helping the Bucks land a lot of elite talent over the past three years. He was probably the best assistant coach recruiting in the Big Ten conference during his tenure with the Buckeyes.
It's not easy to find a replacement for a good coach, Buckeye legend, and ace recruiter, but Urban Meyer and company may have just found the perfect coach to fill those big shoes left by Vrabel's departure when they named former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. assistant head coach and defensive line coach.
Johnson's bonafides remind a lot of Vrabel. He is very good at developing defensive linemen, having coached seven All-Americans along the defensive front during his lengthy tenure in Happy Valley, and had also been Penn State's best recruiter and one of the nation's best for years.
Having a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of Larry Johnson not on the recruiting trail for #PSU. Is such a special recruiter.
— Jeremy Crabtree ESPN (@jeremycrabtree) January 14, 2014
Landing Johnson should also help the Buckeyes in regions where they haven't seen a whole lot of success over the past couple of years.
The move will carry significant implications on the recruiting trail, as Johnson was long considered Penn State's most important recruiter. His presence on the Ohio State staff will increase the Buckeyes' recruiting arm in both Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., where Johnson was a longtime high school coach.
While the Ohio State roster currently bolsters a few players from Pennsylvania and Virginia, those are certainly two areas the Buckeyes would like to land a little more talent from. Especially Pennsylvania, a state rich with high school football talent. Johnson is a coaching legend in the state and has great relationships with high school coaches across the state.
Due the the hefty sanctions on the Penn State football program, Johnson's recruiting ranking might not be as high as other ace recruiters, but he has done wonders under the unusual circumstances he has been presented with over the past couple of years.
Last year he helped Penn State land the nation's number two tight end, Adam Breneman, highly touted defensive end Garrett Sickels, and many other players the Nittany Lions would've struggled to land without Johnson's golden touch.
Just this past year Johnson was able to work his magic in the recruitment of Brooklyn (NY) Abraham Lincoln defensive tackle Thomas Holley. There's almost no chance the Lions would've landed Holley without Johnson on their staff. Now that he's gone, it's highly unlikely they're able to keep Holley in the fold.
Most prominent in that group is New York City defensive tackle Thomas Holley, Penn State's highest-rated recruit by Rivals.com. Holley could not be immediately reached for comment, but he has made no secret of his admiration for Johnson and his role in Holley choosing Penn State.
It will be interesting the see if Holley and the Buckeyes start talking again. The two parties mutually parted back at the end of October, but with Johnson landing at Ohio State, there's a possibility the door will open back up, especially with the Bucks coveting another defensive linemen in the 2014 class. Right now I think he's going to end up at Florida, but it's definitely something we're going to keep tabs on leading up to National Signing Day next month.
Nevertheless, it's going to be fun to watch Johnson develop better raw talent, recruit at one of the nation's premier programs, and recruit without the heavy NCAA sanctions he had hanging over his head like he would've if he had stayed at Penn State. Not to mention having the opportunity to recruit alongside the best head coach recruiter in the Big Ten and one of the nation's best in Urban Meyer.
His addition to the staff means Ohio State will no longer have to recruit against him, which has given OSU problems in the past and will now have him to recruit against his former school and Big Ten rival Penn State.
Welcome to Ohio State, Larry Johnson.