Lanning Hits The Ground Running
Confetti was still wafting through the air at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as Dan Lanning left the field, following Georgia's win over Alabama in Monday's College Football Playoff championship game.
Lanning was the defensive coordinator for Georgia, which had just beaten the Crimson Tide, 33-18. The Bulldogs' defense had held Alabama to 4.7 yards per play, well off its previous season average of 6.5 yards per play, and to its season-low point total. The evening's final touchdown was provided by that Georgia defense, a game-clinching pick-six in the final minute.
But Lanning also was the next head coach at Oregon. And as he left the field Monday night, and was walking up the tunnel to Georgia's locker room, he already was on FaceTime with a potential recruit for Oregon. A month of going back and forth from Bulldog to Duck was over.
"That moment," Lanning recalled Thursday, "I was a Duck."
Lanning arrived in Eugene on Tuesday, and held his first team meeting with the Ducks on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon he held a press conference with local media, to review what he described as a "roller coaster" first month on the job; he was named Oregon's next head coach on Dec. 11, and in the ensuing weeks balanced preparing Georgia for the College Football Playoff while getting to work with the Ducks.
"I wouldn't change a minute of it," Lanning said. "It's been such a rewarding experience, getting to go compete with the players I've coached for such a long time, and finish it on a high note with winning a national championship."
That commitment to the program he was leaving earned Lanning respect in Oregon's locker room. Several UO players have announced they re-considered turning pro or entering the transfer portal after conversations with Lanning while he was juggling his time at Georgia. He also completed the process of hiring a full staff of assistant coaches will splitting time between two jobs.
This week that new staff was finally united in Eugene. Lanning and his assistants toured the University of Oregon campus Thursday, and were in awe after seeing the beauty and functionality of facilities like the Jaqua Academic Center and the new Hayward Field.
"Excited to be wearing one uniform here, from here on out," Lanning said.
The top two priorities in new staff members, Lanning said, were relationships and development. Among his assistants are veterans of the NFL including Adrian Klemm and Tosh Lupoi, established Power 5 assistants including Tony Tuioti and Joe Lorig, and elite recruiters including Junior Adams and Demetrice Martin.
"I know we've got great men of character, great coaches and teachers that are going to be around our players, and I couldn't be more thrilled about the group we put together," Lanning said.
The staff also includes new strength and conditioning coach Wilson Love, whose passion for his job Lanning has appreciated since both were on staff at Alabama. Lanning said he arrived at his office at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex just before 6 a.m. Wednesday, and texted Love to hit him up when Love was in the office; Love replied that he'd been in the weight room since 4 a.m.
Love's staff includes two assistants retained from the previous staff, Mark Davis and Shaud Williams. Lanning said a previous school he worked at had tried to attract Williams to a position, unsuccessfully. Now they'll get the chance to work together in Eugene.
"I told him, hey, if you wouldn't come to me, I had to come to you," Lanning joked.
At Wednesday's team meeting, Lanning met with a group of players he said "share a vision of what we can be, and what this program can become." Among the players in attendance was quarterback Bo Nix, a transfer from Auburn who will be pushed by young returners Jay Butterfield and Ty Thompson.
"Competition breeds excellence ultimately," Lanning said. "And we're going to have competition across the board, quarterback included."
That competition will see its foundation laid with offseason conditioning, and then in spring practice. Following summer workouts and preseason camp, the Ducks will open the 2022 season against Georgia – yes, the program Lanning just left.
But after a month of splitting his time between the Ducks and Bulldogs, Lanning has had a singular focus since the end of Monday's national championship game.
"It's full-steam ahead Oregon, everything Oregon," he said. "And it was the minute I left that field."