Dan Lanning's defense dominated Alabama. Now his work begins at Oregon.
This long month of limbo is finally over, and a hire that looked pretty good and a bit out of left field 31 days ago now couldn't look any better.
If you heard reports of a man in a green blazer with an “O” pinned to the lapel skipping through the streets of Eugene last night, pay no mind. Rob Mullens earned the stroll.
As of today, Oregon’s coach in waiting, Dan Lanning, can scrub the “in waiting” part. He’s Oregon’s. This long, agonizing month of limbo is finally over, and a hire that looked pretty good and a bit out of left field 31 days ago now couldn’t look any better.
Georgia is the national champion, propelled by a defense that didn’t come in waves as much as it arrived like a tsunami. Georgia limited Alabama to 18 points and 30 rushing yards. The game-winning play saw Kelee Ringo intercept Bryce Young, with the backdrop of Kirby Smart mid-air and Lanning’s fists raised to the sky on Georgia’s sideline. It might make for a nice portrait in the Lanning household in Eugene.
They can start home shopping today, because — once again for the people in the back — Lanning is here now. There’s no more waiting. He touched down this morning.
Isn’t that a relief?
December and January have been excruciatingly long for an Oregon fan base in a holding pattern since Mario Cristobal left for Miami. It’s been weeks of seeing familiar faces announced as Hurricanes assistants and a steady stream of decommittments from a once top-10 class. USC is getting stronger, Stanford has the conference’s best class and even Oregon State strapped dynamite to its west grandstand last week in the pursuit of progress.
Teams around the country are advancing. And now Oregon rejoins the field with a month to go before signing day. The Ducks are behind, sure. They also have 60 fresh minutes of film to show from Monday night if anyone still has to ask, “Who is Dan Lanning?”
He’s the guy whose defense did that to an Alabama team that averaged 40 points per game with the Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback. He’d be the hottest coaching commodity in the country had the Ducks not locked him up back on Dec. 11, signing the 35-year-old Bulldogs defensive coordinator to a 6-year, $29.1 million deal that would almost certainly be higher if the coaching carousel hypothetically waited until after the national championship game to start.
Lanning’s Georgia defense was voracious, physical and unrelenting. It was an incredibly good sign for Oregon, and also offered a glimpse at how much ground the first-time head coach will have to cover in Eugene. The Bulldogs were well coached Monday night, sure. They also were one of the few teams in America with the depth of talent to get on the same field as the Crimson Tide. As my former colleague Chris Vannini at The Athletic tweeted, “Georgia taking down big bad Bama gives hope to all other teams that have 19 five-star players on their rosters.”
Getting Oregon up to speed at an elite recruiting level will ultimately be Cristobal’s legacy at Oregon. He spent four years at Alabama, knew the type of talent the Ducks needed to compete and spent most of his time pursuing just that. Oregon had the 25th-best overall talent during his first in 2018, per 247Sports, with no five-stars and 19 four-stars on the roster. In 2021, Oregon had the ninth-best talent with four five-stars and 44 four-stars.
It’s the type of leap the Ducks will have to make again under Lanning if they’re ever going to really compete with football’s true elites. It’s why he’s assembled a staff of all-star recruiters that have already hit the ground running. With Lanning away preparing for the title game, his staff secured key defensive commitments from Washington transfer Sam Taimani, a 6-foot-2, 330-pound defensive tackle who started 10 games last year, and Colorado’s Christian Gonzalez, a two-year starting cornerback who earned Pac-12 all-conference honorable mention honors in 2021.
“Not any situation is the exact same, but recruiting at the end of the day ultimately comes down to work,” Lanning said last week. “It’s going to take work to get great players at Oregon. And we have the ability to get great players and great players should want to come here.”
It will take work. He can start now. He’s here.
— Tyson Alger