Johnson named Penn State interim coach after O'Brien's exit

University Park, PA ( - Larry Johnson has been named the interim head football coach at Penn State after Bill O'Brien officially informed the university of his decision to take the head coaching vacancy with the NFL's Houston Texans.

O'Brien spent the past two seasons at Penn State and compiled a record of 15-9 while dealing with severe NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The Nittany Lions were 7-5 in 2013.

Reports of O'Brien's decision to leave the Nittany Lions surfaced earlier this week.

"Penn State would like to extend its best wishes to Bill O'Brien," said Penn State president Rodney Erickson and Nittany Lions athletic director Dave Joyner in a joint statement Thursday. "Coach O'Brien was a tremendous leader during a challenging time at our university, guiding our student athletes to success both on the field and in the classroom. We will always be grateful to him for his time here at Penn State."

Joyner said the university will begin an immediate search for a full-time replacement while Johnson serves in the interim role.

"We need to do everything we can to support the needs of our student-athletes during this period," said Joyner. "I am very confident in Larry Johnson, the coaches and staff in maintaining continuity and working with the returning players and recruits. We intend to move quickly in our search to identify the next great Penn State football coach."

Johnson is in his 19th season as a Penn State coach and has been the defensive line coach for 15 years. His son, Larry, played for the Nittany Lions and became just the ninth player in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season in 2002.