We are five weeks into the Dan Lanning era in Eugene, and it feels like it’s time to hand out some grades. Just as we would in school, you get a grade at the end of the semester, which is the true grade, but around the half-point, you’re sent home with your midterm grade, which will either delight your parents or make them absolutely furious.
Thankfully for Lanning, I believe we are at a pretty pleasant point. He has the Ducks sitting at 4-1, with their lone loss coming to a Georgia team that would have blown the doors off of 99 percent of teams in the country in Week 1.
We expected big things from Lanning. He was given a high grade when he first took the job. Looking back on it, 247 Sports had this to say about the head coach:
Oregon again hired a head coach from outside the region when it landed Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, one of the hottest names in the industry in a survey conducted by 247Sports in 2021. Lanning, a Midwesterner and SEC veteran, built an Oregon staff peppered with West Coast ties, NFL experience and tenacious recruiters. Led by defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi, who he coached alongside at Alabama, and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who he met at Memphis, this might be the best young staff in the entire country – new or not. That’s a good development, because USC is going to be a beast to battle on the recruiting trail for the foreseeable future.”
Obviously, Oregon didn’t go out and hire some slouch that we had never heard of. Lanning was highly touted as a coordinator, and it was evident that he would have a job offer from numerous programs after the Bulldogs’ impressive National Championship run a year ago. I’ve been impressed so far, but I want to really dig into the details.
I’m going to break my grade down into three parts:
While we have to consider that Georgia game here, I will not allow it to cloud my full grade as it was an impossible matchup for any first-year head coach in their first week on the job.
Oregon is 4-1. They have wins over a few good teams like BYU and Washington State. The wins over Eastern Washington and Stanford aren’t nearly as impressive, but there is a good nugget about the Stanford game that I’ll get to.
Let’s start with BYU. They were coming off a massive double-overtime win against the Baylor Bears, who were the 10th-best team in the country at that point. The momentum was on their side, and then it quickly wasn’t as soon as they entered Oregon. The Ducks dismantled their offense and trashed their defense. It was really our first sign that Lanning could be dominant.
Next came Washington State, a team that typically doesn’t offer much trouble but certainly has great talent. This game was closer than needed, BUT Lanning and the defense got the stops when they needed them, and this offense blew up the Cougs’ defense.
Stanford. Sure, this isn’t David Shaw’s most impressive team during his Cardinal tenure, but there is a crazy stat about new Oregon coaches against the program, thanks to @JonathanAdams on Twitter.
”Dan Lanning is Oregon’s 35th head football coach. 15 of the previous 34 never played Stanford (lucky ba******). The other 19 were 2-16-1 in their first game vs. Stanford and it’s been 50 years since a first-year Duck coach took down the Cardinal. 50!”
Pretty impressive when you take into consideration some of the coaches who have come before Lanning.
The hardest decision that Lanning had to make this Fall was who’s starting quarterback would be. He had a couple of really tough choices but ultimately went with Bo Nix. There have been poor things said about the former Auburn QB in the past, but he didn’t allow that to rattle him when he made his decision.
I would say it has panned out outside of the Georgia game. He has the 12th-best QBR of any QB in the nation. He is tied for 19th in touchdown passes and has already hurled over 1,261 yards. The interceptions, which were a major concern coming into the season, are down. He threw two against Georgia but has thrown just one in the other four games. He’s also been excellent on the ground, rushing for another five touchdowns and even racking up 141 yards against Stanford.
Building a coaching staff is one of the toughest parts of the job, and a few bad coordinators can really tank a team.
So far, I would say Lanning has one of the best staffs in the PAC-12. It’s so good, in fact, that it may not even last past this season. There is lots of buzz that offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham will be one of the top candidates for Arizona State next season. The Phoenix native went to ASU and was an assistant in 2014. His Ducks offense will basically be his audition tape for the rest of the season.
Tosh Lupoi had interest from other schools, and Lanning got him in Eugene as his defensive coordinator. He still has a long way to go, but the BYU and Stanford games showed that he is still learning and can be dominant in the future.
I like Lanning, and I think the Ducks found the right guy after losing Mario Cristobal. Replacing a coach of his stature would never be easy, but it seems like Oregon is moving in the right direction.