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Is Larry Johnson Sr. an improvement at defensive line coach over Mike Vrabel?



JohnnyKozmo's picture

I think the big difference, which I view as an improvement, is rotating fresh bodies in throughout the game.  That's a trademark of SEC defenses, and where the main part of the SEC-speed argument comes from.  You get 8-12 talented D Lineman, and have them all fresh in the 4th quarter, and you have an offense that's not to eager to get back on the field.

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

+5 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Yes, but LJ Sr is able to rotate due to the talent brought in during Vrabel's tenure, Coach V didn't have the players to do it.

Slingin' swag since 1970


+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

He had more than 4 players, that's the point.  The talent level might not have been there (it was for the most part last year), but that doesn't mean he couldn't have subbed more than not subbing at all.  I mean, what good are the starting 4 in the 4th quarter when they haven't come off the field, and the secondary couldn't stop a 3rd and 15?  Everyone might have not been elite, but getting the starters some rest early, saves them late.  

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

Poison nuts's picture

I like the rotating guys thing, but seems a strange question to ask whether Johnson is a better coach. He may or may not be, but with zero games with him, it's hard to say yet...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

+7 HS
BHT's picture

Agreed. I don't think we can reasonably say who the better coach is until we actually watch Johnson this season. I think Vrabel is better for now, but until we watch Johnson's first few games, I don't think we can compare them enough to say who the better coach is.

+1 HS
Whoa Nellie's picture

Thanks for posting this.  I thought maybe I'd fallen asleep and missed his first season here.

“Don’t fear criticism. The stands are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down on the field are the doers, they make mistakes because they attempt many things.”

+5 HS
cw823's picture

How many first round draft picks did Vrabel put in the NFL?

Having watched the disaster of the last couple years, a coach that is good at developing talent and sending it to the NFL to the tune of 1st round picks is always an upgrade.

OSUBias's picture

Our dline has not been a disaster over the last couple of years, at all.

Johnson was also the coach of a dline that gave up 63 points to us last year, so he's not a savior. He's inherited a ton of talent that Vrabel recruited, including several heads up wins against Johnson on the recruiting front.

Like everything football related at this point in the year, it's too early to tell. Wash until proven otherwise.

Shitter's full

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

That is only because he was only here two years and he coached 4 different starters his second year than his first. If he had stayed two more seasons he might have very well ended up coaching 3 first rounders, that's not too far off LJ Sr and in a lot shorter time. I think Johnson is better, but given how long he's been coaching, he should be... first rounders is no indicator though, not between these two anyway.

Slingin' swag since 1970


TMac's picture

This question is akin to Urban or Tressel, both winners, it's more of a style question.  Plus like Poison Nuts pointed out we have yet to see LJS with a Buckeye D-Line. 

ONE Not Done!

+3 HS
Hovenaut's picture

I'll say yes, as LJSR has been coaching much longer with a greater track record at this time.

Vrabel did very well at OSU, progressing and moving on. Interested in seeing where he goes as a coach.

We have filled the Braxton Miller position.

+3 HS
BuckeyeDale's picture

~~Johnson's list of coaching accomplishments while at Penn State is also impressive:
• 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 in the first note above and Devon Still).
• PSU defensive linemen have earned 22 Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors.
• Three of his position players have been named Academic All-American (Tim Shaw in 2006 and Pete Massaro in 2010 and 2012).
• Fifteen Nittany Lion defensive linemen have been named first-team all-Big Ten Conference.
• No Big Ten team (since 1996) has had as many players from one position earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors than the five Nittany Lion honorees hat Johnson mentored.
• And in 2005-06 named Johnson its national college football recruiter of the year. I think he's an improvement at this time.  Someday, Vrabel may be better, but this was his first stop, and whether he ends up as a pro or CFB coach is still up in the air.  Add LJ's experience, and I think you almost HAVE to consider him to be the better coach.  From his bio on the official site:



+3 HS
AndyVance's picture

I feel so dirty not voting for Mike Vrabel, one of my favorite players and coaches of all time...

BuckeyeDale's picture

Yeah, I know...Vrabel may someday turn out to be the better coach, but right now, based strictly on experience and accomplishments, I think you almost HAVE to go with LJ.


+1 HS
Buckeye1004's picture

I think it is important to point out that while Larry Johnson Sr. is a better coach than Mike Vrabel, based on experience and accomplishments in my opinion, this does not mean that Mike Vrable is not a great coach.  I hate questions like this because of the "bad" implication.  I think Mike Vrable is and will continue to be a great coach, but at this point in time, there is no question, Larry Johnson Sr. is a better coach and an improvement over Mike Vrable.

HilltopHustle's picture

In terms of pure X&O's and player development, I'd go with Johnson Sr. But, as we're seeing, recruiting may have been where Vrabel shined the most—his intensity and youth a big reason. I think LJ's east coast "roots" were played up a bit as his recruiting prowess over the past five years has been just OK (you can view his history on Rivals I think).

AAStagg's picture

Even if they were both equal in recruiting and coaching-up defensive linemen, I'd give the nod to Johnson.  Because it's highly unlikely he's going to disrupt the chemistry of the coaching staff the way Vrabel did.  Loved Vrabel as a player and am proud he was a loyal Buckeye.  But you can't tear into your peers, or your head coach, roid-rage style, and hang onto your job for long.  Being 'disruptive' is a great thing for a defensive lineman, but it's problematic for a coach.  He'll likely mellow with age -- most of us do -- but for the time being, I'm happier with Johnson teaching the student athletes.

Keep calm.  It's only a game.

yrro's picture

I love Vrabel and think he's a great coach, but at this point in their careers I have to give the nod to Johnson. I'm excited to see what Vrabel does as he continues his coaching career.

Let's just say that I was sad to see Vrabel go, but was also very happy to welcome Johnson to the family.

cw823's picture

Johnson has a proven history of developing NFL talent on the defensive line.  Vrabel doesn't.  What else should we be grading on?  LJ was a huge upgrade.

-1 HS

I sense that both would be very close depending on the metrics used, but the only differences we can really point to are the fundamental ones, such as rotating vs not rotating the line, which I believe we used to do even under Tress, but stopped doing under Vrabel - for his reasons that the NFL doesn't rotate as much.  Or that Vrabel's method of bootcamping his kids are different from the paternal method of LJSR - but both deliver results... so who is better?  I think we cannot ignore the kids themselves.  Some may respond to one style better than another, but in the end, I bet you would have a very close outcome of measurables.

Without question, Vrabel brought street cred to the D-Line and recruiting, since he is well-known for his contributions with the Patriots, but whether or not he is a better coach than LJSR is such a relative question.  Since I was in school at the same time as MV (and his bookend compadre, Matt Finkes), I have a soft spot for him. BUT...

We would need to make assumptions before we can measure who is a better coach.  For instance, the tangibles like scheme philosophy, technique, D-line plays, and the intangibles like the types of kids they recruit (other than just talent-based), personalities of current D-line vs those being recruited, how they respond to one style vs another, etc)

My question would be "who has the higher set of immeasurables when it comes to coaching the D-Line for OSU" - only time will tell...

"I don't apologize for anything.  When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes

Citrus's picture

Vrabel had a "cool" factor and rockstar swagger about him that was great. Johnson seems like he is more of a teacher. 

brylee's picture

I voted yes, simply because of the experience factor at coaching.  I undertand Vrabel has accomplished more, while actually playing...I don't think that necessarily translates to the sideline.  Time will tell, but our defense, as a whole, needed improvement.

osu07asu10's picture

I said it is a wash but let's see how long LJSr stays around. It didn't appear likely that Vrabel was going to make a career from being the DL coach for us.

If LJSr continues to produce the results he has been known for, and stays around for 5-7 years then I think he is probably an upgrade over Vrabel but only from a longevity standpoint.

Both coach well, both recruit well. Completely different styles.


DCNick's picture

Yes, I think he is a better coach. I think Vrabel was a better recruiter due to his semi-celebrity status but I trust LJ more on talent evaluation and coaching people up. I have watched every video on LJ that I can find. I am happy he's associated with OSU and excited for the future.

I listen to the Bucknuts Morning 5 and a couple months ago they teased some story about one of OSU's position coaches having free reign to recruit whoever he wanted. I'm assuming that's LJ, no?

I like that he wants to rotate guys more. In addition to the fresh legs argument it also helps keep guys focused. Knowing that you are going to play even though you're way down on the depth chart will help motivate you to go the extra mile in your training, eat right, and make good decisions in general.

USMC11917's picture

I haven't read yet, through all of the comments but really where is there enough data to form a decision? What he has done at Penn State is going to be a whole lot different than what he does at Ohio State. We need to compare the same fruit before making an educated guess. Both were good in their own ways and even if Johnson gets the line to perform at exceptional levels this year, who do you attribute that to? These are still currently Defensive Linemen trained by and or recruited by Vrabel. Time will tell but we are far from being able to form a solid, educated opinion.

dubjayfootball90's picture

I did not vote, only because I want to see Larry Johnson Sr. handle the toys he has at Ohio State before I pass my (useless) judgement.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

+2 HS
Barnsey69's picture

I voted for Johnson, but the vote is on consignment until he delivers on the field. Also, right now I'd have to say Vrabel was the better recruiter.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

BucksFan2000's picture

Hard to tell, but think of the talent Johnson will get to coach this year.  If he rotates bodies as planned, things are going to get ugly for opposing offenses.


otrain2416's picture

Honestly its a wash and here's my reasoning

  • Larry Johnson Owns the East Coast in recruiting.
  • Vrabel owns Ohio and the midwest in recruiting. 
  • Johnson has a history of coaching good players and getting them NFL ready
  • Vrabel has a great history at the school he's coaching at and the NFL showing the positives and OSU alum can achieve at the professional level. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

UrbanCulture's picture

I put a wash because I believe Larry Johnson is the better coach, and Vrabel is the better recruiter.

Once I see Johnsons east coast connections pay off in recruiting (as of yet they have not) and after he gets a season under his belt, I will be more inclined to vote Johnson

+1 HS
jestertcf's picture

I voted wash because of Johnson's previous success and Vrable's bloody forehead.

~Because we couldn't go for three~

+1 HS
SwagstonMiller's picture

I guess you can vote based on Larry's track record at PSU... Me personally? I'm holding back judgement until I see a full year of his work at tOSU.

I think it's easy to think that Larry is better now, just because he is our coach right now and Mike is not. However, the progress Mike made between when he was first hired and when he left for the Texans is remarkable. Not to mention the guys he helped bring in. I'm looking at the guys we're in on this year and I see a bunch of redshirt guys, no instant impact players like what were recruiting when Mike was our coach. Obviously we're recruiting Josh Sweat, but I think that's real longshot at the moment. Larry is a really good coach, but it seems like the type of player he likes versus the one's that Mike recruited are different. I don't doubt his track record with sending guys to the league, but I'm not a fan of his recruiting style (Personally).