Penn State has three top candidates for its recently vacated head-coaching position, according to a report from ESPN's Brett McMurphy.
The report lists Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, Miami head coach Al Golden and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak as the three top choices to become the next head coach of the Nittany Lions.
The job became officially open Thursday morning, when athletics director Dave Joyner announced that Bill O'Brien had resigned to take the head-coaching job with the Houston Texans. The Texans introduced O'Brien on Friday. Joyner said in his press conference that the committee established to search for the O'Brien's replacement expects the search to go quickly.
"We expect this search to be very timely, and our anticipation is we'll be counting this in a matter of days rather than weeks," Joyner said.
Franklin has brought relevancy to a Vanderbilt program that previously had very little in the SEC. Historically viewed as one of the weaker schools in the powerhouse conference, Vanderbilt has gone to three straight bowl games under Franklin, who's led the Commodores to a 23-15 record in three seasons. Prior to his taking over the program, Vanderbilt had been to just four bowls since 1902. Franklin is also a native of Langhorne, Pa.
Golden has strong Penn State ties, playing tight end for the Nittany Lions from 1987 to 1991. He's spent the last three years helming the program at Miami, though the Hurricanes have not been overly impressive under his leadership. He's posted a 22-15 record and experienced his best finish this season, going 9-4 (including a loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl) and spending some time ranked in the top 10. He has experience coaching under NCAA sanctions, as the Hurricanes were banned from the postseason in his first two years at Miami. Prior to taking over at Miami, Golden coached in Pennsylvania, spending five years as the head coach at Temple.
Like Golden, Munchak — a Scranton, Pa., native — also played for Joe Paterno at Penn State, playing along the offensive line from 1978 to 1981. He was named to the All-America Second Team in 1981 and was a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. Munchak has spent his entire coaching career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise, serving as an assistant from 1994 to 2010 before being named head coach ahead of the 2011 season. In three years, he's posted a 22-26 record and has not made the playoffs.
Other reports have stated that interim head coach Larry Johnson Sr., who has served as an assistant coach at Penn State for nearly two decades, also has interest in the job.