The narrative for both teams when it comes to preseason preparation is that they’ve been focusing on themselves and not the opponent. It seems that’s not entirely true, at least when it comes to the Ducks.
Oregon defensive end Bradyn Swinson was asked how much they have studied the Bulldogs, so far.
“Since the day (Lanning) walked in, we’ve been watching Georgia,” said Swinson, a sophomore from Douglasville. “From the start, he’s been hammering us with information and showing us tape, his schemes and everything. That’s been amazing since he got in here. We’ve been watching UGA since Day 1.”
The Ducks are entering their first season under Lanning, who is a head coach for the first time in his coaching career (not counting a third-grade boys basketball team). They were 10-4 last season (7-2 Pac-12) before coach Mario Cristobal bolted for Miami, his alma mater.
Here are five more Oregon observations to wrap up our journey to the Pacific Northwest:
1. Injuries surface
While the Ducks are just moving into the full-contact phase of camp, there has been plenty of “thumping” going on. That’s what they call the period of “shells” in which players hit each other wearing shoulder pads and helmets but don’t take anyone to the ground.
Starting right tackle Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu has missed the past two practices with an injury that Lanning identified only as a “minor ding.”
“I think we’ll get him back here shortly,” Lanning said.
Lanning was even more vague about defensive tackle Maceal Afaese, who also missed the past two workouts because of injuries.
“His may be a little longer term,” Lanning said.
With senior guard T.J. Bass also missing some time, the Ducks have had to do some shuffling around up front. But offensive line is considered an overall strength of the team.
2. Dan Lanning’s successors
Lanning was advised that his two successors at Georgia – co-defensive coordinators Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp – met with the media in Athens on Tuesday. Lanning shared the defensive coordinator title with Schumann his last four seasons with the Bulldogs, though seemingly serving as the primary coordinator.
With the forceful Muschamp also on the sideline all season, Georgia essentially had three defensive chiefs last year.
“Nah,” he said. “First, I love coach Schumann. I think he’s proven over time that he does a great job of developing his position (inside linebackers). He probably doesn’t get enough credit for it, but I think he’s done a great job from a schematic standpoint. He knows the defense as well as anybody. But, look, coach Schumann and coach Muschamp, they’re the cream of the crop, the top of the top. They both do a great job.”
3. Coaching vs. talent
There remains some skepticism in Duck Territory about Lanning’s innate coaching ability. The debate is over all the talent he reportedly had at his disposal in Athens versus stymieing opposing offenses with strategy and guile.
Lanning reasons that one needs a good dose of both ingredients to be able to succeed at a championship level.
“It’s certainly different,” Lanning said. “We were in Year 6 of Kirby Smart at Georgia and Year 4 of me being there. That’s a different level than where we are here, which is Day 1, Year 1. We’re not going to be the same team here.”
Lanning said his years being a high school coach taught him to adapt to his personnel and run what his players do well.
“Just because something was a great defensive call at Georgia doesn’t mean it will be at Oregon,” Lanning said. “So, we’ve got to adapt to our players. But we certainly have talented players here, and they’ve definitely bought in.”
The Bulldogs produced a record 15 NFL draft picks off last year’s team, including eight defensive players, five of whom went in the first round.
“Those guys were happy for me, and I’m certainly happy for them,” Lanning said of the draftees. “We’ve talked. There’s been a text here or there. We love those guys. I would not be sitting here if it wasn’t for those players.”
4. Portal Central
Lanning went into the portal to try to bolster Oregon’s talent. There are 19 transfers listed on Oregon’s roster, at least 10 of whom came in this season. While several of those are walk-ons and specialists, the majority are from major programs such as Auburn (Bo Nix), Texas A&M (Caleb Chapman), Nebraska (Casey Rogers and Jordan Riley), Colorado, Minnesota, UCLA and Washington.
While that may seem risky from a camaraderie standpoint, the Ducks insist that they have meshed well.
“I came from a player-led team back in Nebraska, and I think that’s what we have here,” said Rogers, who is expected to contribute significantly on the defensive line. “I didn’t know what to expect when I got here, but I’ve been really happy with how player-led this team really is, and we have a standard to meet.”
5. Major roles landed
While virtually none of the Ducks’ position battles have been resolved, at least two roles were solidified within the Lanning household.
Caden and Kniles Lanning landed parts in a coming local rendition of a “Monty Python” play.
There had much trepidation in the Lanning household the past couple of weeks as the Lannings’ two oldest sons had to memorize lines and practice on-stage blocking and movement in a prolonged tryout for roles.
Lanning was proud – and relieved – to share that both boys landed parts.
“I guess it went well,” Lanning said. “Caden is the Black Knight, the guy that gets chopped up. Kniles has parts, including Sir Robin, the Not.”
It is apparent that Lanning is just as excited for his sons who act as his son who plays ball. Titan, the youngest of the boys, is preparing to make his Willamette Valley Youth Football debut.
“He likes sports,” Lanning said of Titan. “He’s the baller.”
Lanning confirmed that he sent his youngest to the Kirby Smart youth football camp this past summer.
“Titan went to coach Smart’s football camp and had a good time,” Lanning said. “We didn’t have a kids camp this year. So, you know, we do what we had to do. I asked him to try to write down some plays they had drawn out in the meeting rooms, but he didn’t come back with any information, unfortunately.”