Lanning said he still has been to Eugene, Ore., only one time. He traveled there on Dec. 12 and was introduced as the Ducks’ new head coach on Dec. 13. Lanning remained there for two more days before rejoining the Bulldogs’ for their bowl preparations in Athens.
In the meantime, Lanning has reportedly made seven hires for his Oregon staff. So far, none of them have come off Georgia’s staff, on-field or support. He hired Marshall Malchow, who previously worked at UGA, from Texas A&M as operations director. The rest of his staff has come from far and wide: Kenny Dillingham (FSU) as offensive coordinator, Matt Powledge (Baylor) as co-defensive coordinator, Tony Tuioti (Nebraska) for defensive line, Demetric Martin (Colorado) for defensive backs and, reportedly, Adrien Klemm from the Pittsburgh Steelers to coach offensive line.
But there remains much more work to do to get Oregon up to speed. In addition to hiring a staff, Lanning has to find time to recruit and evaluate the Ducks’ existing personnel.
Meanwhile, there’s the matter of getting the Bulldogs ready to face a Michigan offense that, while known for its ground-and-pound ways, also happens to lead the nation in plays of 50 yards or more. Led by running back Hassan Haskins (1,288 yards, 20 TDs), the Wolverines average 37.7 points and 451.9 yards per game.
Meanwhile, neither Lanning nor anyone in the Bulldog Nation has forgotten what Alabama did to Georgia in its last outing. The Crimson Tide torched the Bulldogs to the tune of 421 yards passing, 536 total yards and 34 offensive points. This came against a Georgia defense that still leads the nation in scoring defense (9.5 ppg) and was among the best in every other category.
It’s another to keep a coordinator up all night. At times, it has.
“I don’t clock in and clock out,” Lanning said. “We work until the work’s done. Sometimes that’s later than other nights. We’ve had a couple of late nights, but there’s no lack of energy or ability to roll here. I’m obviously excited about the tremendous opportunity we have here.”
Georgia’s defensive dynamic already was unusual from a leadership standpoint. While Lanning clearly has been the main defensive voice and calls the defense for the Bulldogs, they essentially have four coordinators on that side of the ball.
Lanning has shared the title of co-defensive coordinator with inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann since the two of them succeeded Mel Tucker after the 2018 season. Coach Kirby Smart, himself a defensive coordinator at Alabama for 10 seasons, has appointed Schumann and Will Muschamp as co-defensive coordinators when Lanning leaves for good.
And, of course, anybody who has watched Georgia over the past few years knows Smart still takes on a fully-active role with the Bulldogs’ defense. He spends the majority of every practice working that unit, especially the linebackers and secondary.
Georgia players say they’ve seen no notable difference in the defensive operation since Lanning’s appointment.
“It’s absolutely the same,” senior safety Christopher Smith said. “We’ve still been running things the way we’ve run it all season. Obviously Coach Lanning hasn’t gone on to his new job yet. He’s still with us. He said earlier, he’s going to try to play his role with us the best he can, the best of his ability, and he’s been doing a great job with that all year. He’s going to continue to do so until this whole thing’s all over.”
Muschamp is the real wildcard in the Bulldogs’ defensive operation. Like his good friend Smart, Muschamp built his coaching career on coordinating defenses. He did that to great affect at Auburn, LSU and Texas before parlaying it into head coaching jobs at Florida and South Carolina.
Muschamp, who was fired as the Gamecocks’ coach during the season last year, joined Georgia’s staff as a defensive analyst immediately after settling his contract with South Carolina on Dec. 31, 2020. But Muschamp found himself back on the field with the Bulldogs by the time preseason camp opened in August. Special teams coordinator Scott Cochran had to take a health-related leave of absence in late July. So, Smart promoted Muschamp.
Not surprisingly, Muschamp has spent the majority of his time working with Georgia’s defense, specifically assisting first-year secondary coach Jahmile Addae with the defensive backs. That has made for some interesting in-game dynamics on the sideline this season. Muschamp was often seen asserting himself into the Bulldogs’ discussions and huddles.
Lanning assured that it was not a problem.
“Coach Muschamp has been invaluable to us just from an experience standpoint,” Lanning said Monday. “I think he does a good job of communicating with our players. I know our guys really love being coached by Will. I certainly love having him in the room.”
Soon enough, though, Lanning no longer will be in the room. And certainly Schumann, now 32 years old, is going to want to advance his career.
Schumann, who served Smart as an analyst at Alabama, gets high marks as a coach as well.
“As a coach, I feel like he’s great,” Georgia star linebacker Nakobe Dean said of his position coach. “I feel like he works as hard if not harder as we work on the field. He demands the best out of us. He was one of the reasons I came (to Georgia), because I knew he was going to push me to be great.”
Said Lanning: “Glenn’s a phenomenal coach. He’s also a great friend. He cares about his players tremendously. They have a huge amount of respect for Glenn and the way he works day in and day out. He’s diligent worker, he’s extremely smart and he’s somebody that I’ve leaned on my entire time here at Georgia.”