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Oregon head coach Dan Lanning speaks during Pac-12 Conference men's NCAA college football media day Friday, July 29, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Damian Dovarganes

Dan Lanning shares his thoughts on facing Georgia football in Week 1: ‘Our players are certainly excited’

Just as Kirby Smart did last week, Dan Lanning was speaking in front of reporters at media days. The new Oregon head coach spoke at PAC-12 media days in Los Angeles on Friday.

Naturally, his former employer came up. Lanning served as the defensive coordinator at Georgia for the past three seasons, helping build a championship-winning unit. Now he’ll look to do the same for the Ducks, as he takes over for Mario Cristobal.

Lanning’s first game though figures to be quite a challenge. That is because it is against the team he just left. The one that won it all last season.

“I certainly couldn’t pass the opportunity to recognize our first game,” Lanning said to conclude his opening statement. “Get to play a really familiar opponent in Georgia in a neutral-site game in Atlanta. Certainly excited about going back and seeing some familiar faces going there, getting to compete against a mentor and a friend in Kirby Smart.”

Georgia and Oregon open the season on Sept. 3 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Both teams still have over a month to go before stepping on the field against each other, with Georgia and Oregon using fall camp to sort out some of the questions they have about each other.

For the Ducks, they still haven’t announced a starting quarterback for the game. The perceived favorite is another name Georgia knows well, as the Ducks brought in former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix via the transfer portal. Nix started three games against Georgia in his time with the Tigers, dropping all three contests.

While the game against Georgia looms large to start the season, Lanning made it clear that Oregon is focusing on itself first before looking too far ahead.

It’s clear he learned a thing or two in answering questions from Smart.

“Honestly, we haven’t spent a ton of focus on game one,” Lanning said. “I know our players are certainly excited to be on a national stage early and get to play obviously an elite opponent in Georgia that we’re really familiar with. Guess what, they’re also familiar with me.”

Smart’s answers about Oregon have been similar to this point, with the Georgia coach being cordial toward Lanning. The two clearly have a relationship that extends beyond just coaching football.

At SEC media days, Smart told reporters that he and Lanning have chatted from time to time this offseason. Obviously not about the specifics of either team, but the large points of being a football coach.

“It’s more gratitude both ways. He’s had some questions as a first-time head coach. Same questions I would have had,” Smart said. “And we shared ideas and philosophies, and will continue to. That never kept me from talking to somebody.”

Related: Kirby Smart on Georgia football-Oregon opener: ‘That game will help set us up for the SEC gauntlet’

Oregon has a little bit farther to go if it is going to match what Georgia has in recent seasons. While Cristobal had Oregon contending in the PAC-12 every year, the Ducks haven’t made the College Football Playoff since 2014. After winning the Rose Bowl to cap the 2019 season, the Ducks failed to reach said heights in each of the previous two seasons.

The opener against Georgia will certainly be used as a measuring stick for both Lanning and the Oregon program. While Lanning is a first-time head coach, he knows expectations will be high for the Oregon program.

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