Golden, 44, is 22-15 in three seasons with the Hurricanes, a job he landed after he turned around a Temple program he took over in 2006 — winning a combined 17 games in his final two seasons.
ESPN also reported Vanderbilt’s James Franklin has drawn interest from Penn State.
Neither Golden nor Franklin has publicly spoken about the possibility of coming to Penn State, but one man who is interested in the job spoke with the media yesterday: Penn State interim head coach Larry Johnson. The longtime assistant said he will apply for the job, and had a simple answer as to why.
“I say to myself every morning, ‘Why not? Why not?’ ” Johnson said yesterday. “When I get up in the morning, that’s what I think about. I have a plan, but I don’t have a campaign speech. I don’t have that. I’m just going to be myself. Hopefully, the Nittany Nation will get behind me and move this thing forward. Our players need a change, but maybe the change is standing right in front of you.”
Johnson has spent 18 seasons at Penn State, the last 15 coaching the defensive line, and ended up being the last person from Joe Paterno’s staff to remain with the program. He was given the interim title to help keep Penn State’s current team and its 2014 recruiting class together.
Johnson said he’s lost a lot of sleep in the last few days, but has had productive conversations with current players and prospects who have orally pledged to the Nittany Lions.
“I understand exactly where we are,” Johnson said. “This is a great university and there are some great players in that locker room. Not to want to be a part of that would be crazy. I think our players deserve opportunity to move forward with a smooth transition. And hopefully I can provide that for them.”
But Johnson has garnered the support of dozens of current and former players, who would support a move of the master recruiter to head coach, and Johnson called the support “special.”
Players are not currently on campus, however, because of winter break. But Johnson said he spoke with half the team on Thursday night in the form of a conference call, and planned to do the same with the rest of the team last night.
Star wideout Allen Robinson declared for the NFL draft on Thursday, but Johnson said no other player told the coach he wouldn’t return to Penn State because of the coaching switch.
Although fans had a mixed reactions to O’Brien’s departure, Johnson said that from what he could gather from players, they understood his decision.
“They’re very happy for coach O’Brien and the fact that he’s moving forward in his career,” Johnson said. “And these guys are ready to go. They’ve been there. This is small, compared to what they’ve been through, and the guys are ready to go. That’s the sentiment I’ve got from most of the players I’ve talked to.”
As far as other coaching-staff members go, Johnson said no one had resigned from Penn State or told him he planned to leave as of yesterday.
On Twitter: @SPianovich