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Dan Lanning's spring is all about finding the 'right' 'guys' for the Oregon Ducks
Looking for patterns in what we've heard so far this spring from Oregon's second-year head coach.
Sometimes trying to be the site that covers Oregon sports a little differently leads to some great results.
You didn’t see The Oregonian out there running1 the 400 meters at the Prefontaine Classic now, did ya?
However, not every idea works right away.
For instance, through three Oregon spring practices only Dan Lanning has been made available to the media. That will change on Thursday when defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi and select student-athletes will speak, but so far spring practice for reporters in Eugene has consisted of watching a lot of stretching and listening to a lot of Lanning.
So here’s the brilliant2 idea I had: Transcribe all 26 minutes of Lanning’s three press conferences, run it through one of those word cloud mapping softwares and see if I saw any trends I could whip 800 words out of.
Maybe he singled one player out more than others, or the cloud would give away a hidden secret to the offense, or, well, anything.
But then I uploaded around 6,000 words into this website called FreeWordCloudGenerator.com and quickly remembered that we’re dealing with a true professional of coach speak. Lanning may be one of the youngest coaches in the Power 5, but I’d put him up against Saban when it comes to saying a lot without giving away anything.
Well that’s just a mess. Just a bunch of random football and linking words.
However, you don’t just become a mildly succesful3 independent sports writer without having the chops to make lemonade out of "right" and "guys."
Because finding the right guys on defense has been a theme of this spring so far in Eugene.4
But first, the offense? The Ducks know what they have more or less. Their No. 1 quarterback, running back, receiver and tight end all return.
“It was earn the respect versus he’s earned the respect,” Lanning said Tuesday of the difference in spring 2022 and 2023 for Bo Nix. “So now that leadership role is expected for Bo. We expect him to step up. And he has those traits. He’s been that guy.
“Certainly you want the best from your best players, right?”
Last year, Oregon’s best players led an offense that scored more points than any at UO since Marcus Mariota’s Ducks in 2014. The defense, however, had its worst season since 2016 and saw its depth chart turn into a turnstyle this offseason with the departures of Noah Sewell (LB), Justin Flowe (LB), Christian Gonzalez (CB), Bennett Williams (NB), DJ Johnson (Edge) and a host of others to the transfer portal.
And while that wouldn’t seem great on the surface — especially with Gonzalez being talked about as a top-10 pick and Sewell leading the Ducks in tackles three of the last four seasons — Lanning has spent a good portion of his three availabilities talking optimistically about that side of the football, specifically on Tuesday when he spoke about the overall depth and the talent of acquisitions like DE Jordan Burch from South Carolina.
“You talk about changing a defense, it starts with having great guys up front that have the ability to play and have played at a high level,” Lanning said of Burch. “Jordan’s done that … Really excited about what he can do for our team. He has a demeanor about himself and I think when you see him at practice, you see how he moves, it’s like, ‘Ok, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.’
“…I think we have a lot more quality defensive line and DBs who can play. But honest, from top to bottom, I just think there’s more that can play. I’ve said it before, but the more players you can play, the better you’re going to be on defense.”
Lanning’s two recruiting classes as head coach have seen the Ducks finish 16th and ninth nationally, and they’ve specifically loaded up at DB the last two offseasons with the signings of Jalil Tucker, Jahlil Florence and Trejon Williams. Even joining the Ducks this week was athlete Tysheem Johnson, a former four-star recruit and transfer portal add from Ole Miss.
“A guy that's around the ball, you know, makes a lot of plays," Lanning said. "I don't think that we have to look at him exclusively as a nickel. I think he's a guy that has position flexibility that we can use in multiple positions. He's a playmaker who plays with great effort. A physical tackler who has blitz ability. So I think all those things are really appealing."
He might fit in replacing Bennett Williams. Maybe he’s the right guy for Lanning elsewhere on a defense that can make or break Oregon’s chances facing a slate of quarterbacks on the schedule that includes Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., USC’s Caleb Williams, Utah’s Cam Rising and Oregon State’s D.J. Uiagalelei.
The Ducks have some options to work with before the fall. They’re just hoping they’re the right guys to turn the pressure up for a defense that had its least amount of sacks since at least 2000.
“Right now spring ball isn’t about scheme, it’s about playing ball, playing fast, figuring out who can play,” Lanning said. “We still have to figure out who our players our.”
OK, that’s 914 words. I’ll be back with reports this weekend from Will Stein’s first media availability as Oregon’s offensive coordinator on Saturday, along with coverage of the Nike Hoops summit.
— Tyson Alger
The I-5 Corridor
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Again, loose term.
And he sticks the landing.