Mailbag: What are reasonable expectations for Dan Lanning's first year?
Plus: Oregon State as perennial bowl contenders, Hayward Field's recruiting prowess, Dana does Hollywood and what's next for the ACHA D1-bound Oregon hockey team.
Dan Lanning has 16 days until national signing day. I’d hate to waste any time on an intro. So let’s just jump right into this week’s mailbag, which includes answers to questions about Oregon State, Bob Saget, UO hockey, MKA’s Fir problem, Hayward Field, The Athletic’s sale to The New York Times and Dana Altman’s rampage through Los Angeles.
What should be considered a successful first season for the Ducks under Dan Lanning? — Jordan
OK, Jordan. I hate to do this to you, but let me take you back to the Redbox Bowl.
It’s New Year’s Eve 2018. Oregon just beat Michigan State 7-6. Troy Dye is running around the field with Michigan State’s defensive MVP trophy, Oregon’s coaches and boosters are walking up and down Levi’s Stadium’s turf looking for Mario Cristobal’s wedding ring and, despite a game that saw more punts than points, the feeling of progress filled the air.
Said Cristobal — who found his ring back where he left it in his locker — after things calmed down:
“Nine wins, that’s something,” he said. “I think we’re just getting started.”
The Ducks won the Rose Bowl a year later.
I use this example not to force you to relive the Redbox Bowl, but to recall that feeling afterward of knowing that Oregon had the right coach and that the pieces were in place to reasonably expect the team to compete at a high level going into Year 2.
That’s what the expectation should be.
I don’t expect Lanning to compete for a national championship this season. There’s somehow more questions at quarterback than a few months ago, the defense lost three of its best players1 and the recruiting class is currently sitting 64th in the country.
And, let’s face it: It’s Lanning’s first year as a head coach and he’s likely to make some mistakes.
But even what’s left of this roster is more talented — minus Herbert, Justin — than what Cristobal inherited, and Lanning’s first-year paycheck of $4.6 million — Cristobal earned $2.5 million in 2018 — means that expectations should still be reasonably high. It’s the Pac-12. Oregon should compete for a conference title.
If you’re wanting numbers: Eight wins should probably be the floor of expectation, with anything more than 10 coming as gravy. But the real expectation should be this: If Lanning was hired to make Oregon a playoff contender, you should have some concrete evidence pointing in that direction by the end of Year 1.
And maybe an offense a little less reliant on the punter.
So Dana Altman seems to be having a pretty good weekend. How does knocking off two top LA teams rank among his best road trips? — Alec E.