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Succession plan? Larry Johnson isn’t slowing down at all with Buckeyes

Larry Johnson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson is continuing to add to his legend. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Succession plan? Larry Johnson isn’t slowing down at all with Buckeyes

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and Larry Johnson? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Maybe Larry Johnson really can do this forever.

Based on the vice-grip handshakes, the rediscovered passion for riding his bike, the deep-burning passion for developing young pass-rushers and the fact that there is still nobody in the country doing the job any better than the Ohio State defensive line coach, it’s getting harder every year to pin down exactly when the end of his legendary career might come.

That, of course, is just the way he wants it. The only way to really combat the rumors from negative recruiters working against him that retirement might be creeping up is to keep showing that he isn’t slowing down at all — which he clearly isn’t based on the unit he unleashed last season and the stockpile of talent he has again this year.

Eventually, yes, Johnson will have to be replaced. Whenever that happens, it might be the most consequential hire Ryan Day makes with the program, just as landing Johnson in the first place helped alter the trajectory of the Buckeyes for Urban Meyer. But it’s hard to pin an exact date on when that might be necessary because the only signs Johnson has been sending suggest he can keep rolling for several more years.

“I ride in every morning and pinch myself because I get to go in and coach at Ohio State,” Johnson said last spring. “It’s pretty cool, man. Not a lot of people can say that.”

So, who will be the next guy who can make that claim and inherit the throne for the Rushmen? Projecting coaching searches before there’s even a vacancy and with an indefinite timeline is generally a fool’s errand, although it would seem safe to assume in this case that Ohio State would want a Johnson protege.

Kenny Anunike-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Former Ohio State graduate assistant Kenny Anunike learned under Larry Johnson. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

His influence goes beyond just working with his players, and Johnson has helped mold numerous coaches throughout his career as well. The first two that come immediately to mind as perfect fits thanks to their previous stints with the Buckeyes would be SMU defensive line coach Randall Joyner and new Fordham defensive line coach Kenny Anunike. Both worked directly with Johnson as graduate assistants, both earned overwhelmingly positive reviews from those around the program and both now will have had the chance to get experience running their own units by the time Ohio State might be looking for the heir apparent.

Ryan Day has already shown that he’s got a deep list of contacts at both the professional and collegiate level, so it’s just about impossible to predict what would happen if he needs a new defensive line coach. But it would certainly make a lot of sense to look for a branch of Johnson’s coaching tree to keep his presence, philosophies and techniques alive for the Buckeyes.

Just don’t suggest that will be necessary any time soon around Larry Johnson.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.