Larry Johnson

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position Associate Head Coach / Defensive Line Coach

Alma Mater Elizabeth City State, 1973

Larry Johnson
Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line
The Ohio State University

Larry Johnson is widely, accurately and undoubtedly considered the best defensive line coach in college football. Ohio State’s seventh year coach, who was promoted to associate head coach in January 2019, simply continues to excel as coach of the Buckeye’s defensive linemen. And his excellence continues to deliver.

In 2019 he coached and developed Chase Young into a Heisman Trophy finalist – just the ninth defensive player ever named a finalist – and to unanimous first-team All-America status while being named a finalist for five other major national awards. Young won both the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski trophy, both of which are awarded to the nation’s top defensive player.

Young also won the Ted Hendricks award as the nation’s outstanding defensive end in 2019 and he won three Big Ten Conference awards: the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten’s best player and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Johnson has coached more Big Ten defensive players of the year or linemen of the year – 16! – than any program has in the Big Ten over the last 23 years. After coaching nine such honorees during his 18 seasons at Penn State, Johnson has seen Joey Bosa win conference defensive lineman of the year honors twice (2014 and 2015) and the league defensive player of the year award in 2014, Tyquan Lewis was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman of the year in 2016 and Nick Bosa gave Johnson and the Buckeye program four consecutive honorees when he earned the honor in 2017. Young added to the total this year.

Young is also the seventh Ohio State defensive lineman to earn first-team All-America honors under Johnson. The others: Dre’mont Jones (2018), Nick Bosa (2017), Joey Bosa (2014 and 2015), Adolphus Washington (2015) and Michael Bennett (2014). Johnson has coached a total of 13 first-team All-Americans at Ohio State and Penn State.

Johnson has coached eight first-round NFL Draft picks, including the Bosa brothers (Joey in 2016; Nick in 2019). He had five of his players move on to the NFL in one season, after the 2017 campaign, including draft picks Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes. In addition, four of his players, including Sam Hubbard, have been named first-team Academic All-American.

Johnson joined the Ohio State staff in early January, 2014. Ohio State won the 2014 College Football Playoff national championship that season and has won three Big Ten titles with Johnson on staff.

Mentoring is a critical aspect to the successes Johnson and the student-athletes he coaches have realized.

“I’m a relationship guy and I think in order to get the best out of your players you have to develop relationships,” Johnson has said. “I’m also a teacher. I like to teach the basic fundamentals of football. I want guys who are fundamentally sound and have the ability to play fast and to play relentless.”

Johnson grew up in Williamston, N.C., and is a 1973 graduate of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University with a degree in health and physical education. He came to Ohio State after coaching along the defensive line for 18 years at Penn State, including the last 14 seasons (2000-13) overseeing the entire unit. He spent his first four seasons at Penn State – 1996-99 – as defensive ends coach and special team’s coordinator.

While Ohio State is Johnson’s second collegiate coaching stop, his career includes 20 years of high school coaching in Maryland and Virginia.

Johnson came to Ohio State with a resume full of accomplishments while at Penn State:

  • Six of his defensive linemen were first-round NFL draft picks, including No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown in 2000 and also featuring Jimmy Kennedy (2002), Michael Haynes (2003), Tamba Hali (2006), Jared Odrick (2010) and Aaron Mabin (2009).
  • Seven of his defensive linemen achieved first-team All-American status (the six listed above and Devon Still).
  • PSU defensive linemen earned 22 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors.
  • Three of his position players earned Academic All-American status (Tim Shaw in 2006 and Pete Massaro in 2010 and 2012).
  • Fifteen Nittany Lion defensive linemen were named first-team all-Big Ten Conference.

In addition, he coached on a Penn State defense that led the nation in sacks between 2005 and 2009 and was No. 5 nationally in rushing defense from 2004-10. And between 1996 and 2013 Penn State’s defense was a Big Ten Conference statistical champion 14 times, including four times in quarterback sacks and three times in scoring defense.

Johnson spent the first 20 years of his career as a highly successful high school coach. Six times chosen as the Washington Metropolitan Area coach of the year, he guided McDonough High School in Pomfret, Md., to three Maryland state championships and to a 139-36 record between 1975-91, and he also was coach two seasons (1992-93) at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. He started his coaching career in 1974 at Lackey High School in LaPlata, Md.

As a player, Johnson was an NAIA All-American and all-conference performer at Elizabeth City State University. He was inducted into the school’s sports Hall of Fame in 1990. He played one year in the NFL, with the Washington Redskins in 1973.

Johnson and his wife, Christine, are the parents of two sons – Larry Jr. and Tony – and a daughter, Teresa. Larry Jr. and Tony both played football at Penn State with Larry Jr. rushing for a school record 2,087 yards in 2002 and later becoming a first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs and a two-time Pro Bowl selection. Teresa played softball for the Nittany Lions.

Larry Johnson Quick Facts
Hometown: Williamston, N.C.
High School: E.J. Hayes
Alma Mater: Elizabeth City State, 1973
Degree: Health & Physical Education
Year in Coaching: 43rd (Seventh at Ohio State)
Family: Wife, Christine; sons Larry Jr., and Tony (wife is Karin); daughter Teresa and grandchildren Tony Jr., Lalia, Deklen and Jaylen

Larry Johnson’s Big Ten Award Winners
Defensive Players of the Year

  • 2019 – Chase Young
  • 2014 – Joey Bosa
  • 2011 – Devon Still
  • 2009 – Jared Odrick
  • 2002 – Michael Haynes
  • 1999 – Courtney Brown

 Defensive Linemen of the Year

  • 2019 – Chase Young
  • 2017 – Nick Bosa
  • 2016 – Tyquan Lewis
  • 2015 – Joey Bosa
  • 2014 – Joey Bosa
  • 2011 – Devon Still
  • 2009 – Jared Odrick
  • 2005 – Tamba Hali
  • 2002 – Jimmy Kennedy
  • 1999 – Courtney Brown

Larry Johnson Coaching Assignments

Year(s)Position
School
2014-pres.Assistant Head Coach/Defensive LineOhio State
2000-13Defensive LinePenn State
1996-99Defensive Ends/Special Teams CoordinatorPenn State
1992-93Head CoachT.C. Williams (Va.) High School
1975-91Head CoachMcDonough (Md.) High School
1974Assistant CoachLackey (Md.) High School