Lanning, who played at William Jewell College in Missouri, also coached at Pittsburgh, Arizona State, Sam Houston State, Alabama (where he was on the same staff as Smart) and Memphis. He was the inside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator at Memphis from 2016-17 before coming to Georgia.
As for Georgia’s staff, inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann holds the title of co-defensive coordinator. Also, former South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is on staff as special-teams coordinator and assists with defensive backs. Muschamp also served as defensive coordinator at Auburn, LSU and Texas. Smart said they will be co-defensive coordinators next season.
Georgia’s defense this season ranks at or near the top of the national rankings in all the major categories: first in scoring defense (9.54 points per game, 5.46 fewer than the next team), second in total defense (254.4 yards per game), second in pass-efficiency defense (102.17 rating), third in run defense (81.7 yards per game) and third in pass defense (172.7 yards per game).
One of Lanning’s star pupils, nose guard Jordan Davis, won the Outland Trophy this season as the nation’s top interior lineman. Davis also won the Chuck Bednarik Award and is the third person to win both those awards in the same season. Davis also finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting this year. Nakobe Dean, another star Bulldogs defender, won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
Lanning’s compensation has increased 540% in four years at Georgia.
“I’m forever grateful to coach Smart for giving me the opportunity to coach at the University of Georgia,” Lanning said in August following the pay raise. “It’s always been a dream of mine to coach the elite and to have the opportunity to compete for championships at the highest level. I think Georgia provides that.”
Rewards such as Lanning has received do not come unwarranted. The $1 million of increases Lanning has received over the past two years are listed as “competitive” raises on Georgia’s accounting ledgers. Each came as a result of Lanning being offered work elsewhere.
Mike Norvell, for whom Lanning worked at Memphis, tried to hire him away to Florida State before last season. And new Texas coach Steve Sarkisian took a shot at acquiring Lanning in January.
“It’s competitive, and when you’re at a good program, you’re going to have good opportunities,” the 35-year-old Lanning, who is married and has three sons, said before the season. “But the grass is not always greener, and I learned that from watching coach Smart for several years. You know, being successful where you’re at, opportunities will come.”