Fri, Jan 14, 2022 2:04 AM
By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
Dan Lanning was all-in as Oregon's new head coach the moment he stepped off the field from celebrating Georgia's national championship.
Lanning was hired by the Ducks last month, but first he finished out his run as defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, who on Monday beat Alabama 33-18 for the national title.
“Walking off the field in the tunnel, after winning the national championship, I was on FaceTime with a guy that can enhance our program and make us better," Lanning said. “So yeah, absolutely, at that moment I was a Duck.”
Lanning arrived on campus in Eugene on Tuesday and set about touring the campus, meeting players and prepping to hit the recruiting trail.
Lanning, 35, replaces Mario Cristobal, who left the Ducks after four seasons to become the head coach at Miami.
Oregon finished 10-4 this past season, falling 47-32 to Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl. The Ducks had high hopes after an upset of Ohio State put the team in the early playoff picture. But it was short-lived, and Oregon lost regular season games to Stanford and Utah to fall out of the running.
Oregon ended the season ranked No. 22. There's already a little intrigue heading into the coming season: The Ducks will face Georgia in the opener on Sept. 3 in Atlanta.
Lanning has been busy behind the scenes assembling a staff, which includes offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who spent the last two seasons in the same position at Florida State, and defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi, who comes to the Ducks from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is off to the draft, where he's expected to be one of the top picks, but Auburn quarterback Bo Nix announced last month that he'll play for Oregon after entering the transfer portal.
Nix, a former five-star recruit and three-year starter for the Tigers, injured his ankle late in the season. Before he was hurt, Nix completed 197 of 323 passes for 2,294 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for four touchdowns.
“What I know about Bo, he's an ultimate competitor, I know how hard he works," Lanning said on Thursday. "We were really clear with Bo. `Hey, you come in here, there’s certainly an opportunity to compete.' But we’re really excited about the guys we have on our roster as well and excited to see those guys come in and compete and go to work.”
Oregon is still awaiting decisions from running backs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell regarding the upcoming season. Freshman running back Sean Dollars announced earlier this week he was going to enter the transfer portal, then changed his mind a day later after talking to Lanning.
Lanning and his staff are already pulling double shifts, not only targeting recruits, but also watching film and getting to know the players who are already Ducks.
“We’re taking over a really good situation here. But I want to be able to form opinions on our players. I don’t want to come in with preconceived notions about who’s who and who’s what," Lanning said. "That being said, I know what’s on our roster right now. I know we have some great talent. If we continue to do a great job of acquiring more talent, I think we’ll continue to be in the driver’s seat.”
Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart brought Lanning to Georgia in 2018. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2019.
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