Lanning to call plays for UGA defense in semifinal

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is headed to Oregon as the Ducks’ new head coach, but he’ll first call defensive plays for the Bulldogs in Friday’s game against Michigan in a College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl.

Lanning, 35, was hired as Oregon’s coach on Dec. 11 to replace Mario Cristobal, who left for Miami, his alma mater.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has named inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann and former Florida and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp as co-defensive coordinators once Lanning leaves. But Lanning says nothing will change in how the defense operates when the No. 3 Bulldogs play the No. 2 Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App).

“Our approach will be very similar to what it has been all season,” Lanning said Monday. “Nothing is really going to change in the way we operate. Luckily with bowl prep, there is a lot more time. There is a lot of time to get ready, and I think a lot of times people make the mistake of trying to do too much in a shortened window. We’ll operate very similarly to the way we’ve operated all season.”

Lanning will be a first-time head coach with the Ducks. Smart hired him as the Bulldogs’ outside linebackers coach in 2018; he was promoted to defensive coordinator the next season.

The Bulldogs led the FBS in scoring defense (9.5 points) and were No. 2 in total defense (253.2 yards) this season. But they were blitzed by Alabama in a 41-24 loss in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4, surrendering 536 yards, including 421 passing.

“We’ve just got to work,” Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean said. “We’ve got to trust the coaches’ game plan and we’ve got to execute at a high level. As far as attributing to the blown coverages, we didn’t have elite focus and elite execution.”

Lanning said the time difference has allowed him to focus on Georgia’s CFP preparations early in the day, then on building a coaching staff, recruiting class and roster at Oregon at night. He has already hired Florida State’s Kenny Dillingham as offensive coordinator and Baylor’s Matt Powledge as co-defensive coordinator. ESPN reported last week that Oregon is set to hire Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm once the NFL season ends.

“I’m really excited about what we’re putting together there,” Lanning said. “The good thing [with] the West Coast being three hours behind us, it has given us the opportunity to really focus on Georgia early on during the day, and then later at night we’re able to get a lot of things accomplished with our team there at Oregon and the staff as we’re piecing that together.”

For now, Lanning has at least one game left with the Bulldogs — and then maybe one more.

“Obviously, Coach Lanning hasn’t gone on to his new job yet,” Georgia safety Christopher Smith said. “He’s going to try to play out his role with us the best he can and to the best of his abilities and he’s been doing a great job with that all year. He’s continuing to do so until this thing is over.”

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