ATHENS — The Georgia defense has enjoyed a strong camp under the direction of new coordinator Dan Lanning, a young task master with seemingly boundless energy.
Even in last Saturday’s scrimmage, with the Havoc Rate not up to par, Lanning’s defense earned praise from Kirby Smart for its Red Zone execution.
“We had some big red area (inside the 20-yard line) stops,” Smart said. “I thought, ‘man, they’re just driving down the field and then, boom! We hit the red area.
“Defensively, if you hold people to field goals, that’s big.”
The 33-year-old Lanning, promoted from within after veteran assistant Mel Tucker took the Colorado head coaching job, recently said fall camp represents his favorite time of year.
“You know, we really enjoyed the opportunity to work for our guys and this is really why you get in the profession, the opportunity to teach,” Lanning said at the start of fall drills. “Every year, we do a self-scout, and we try to evaluate what things can we do better, what issues can be created for the offense, and what can we change schematically.
“And then I think every fall when you start, you say ‘okay what are the points of emphasis, what are we really going to hammer home,’ because if you try to do everything, you’re going to be an expert at nothing, right? So, we want to really focus on how do we coach it and how do we create it.”
Senior safety J.R. Reed said last week that stopping the run and creating Havoc are the two issues discussed every day in the team meeting rooms.
Lanning and Smart — a championship defensive coordinator during his tenure at Alabama — have put their heads together to find some new approaches for the Bulldogs.
Lanning’s creativity is one of the reasons Smart elected to take a chance on the young assistant, rather than go outside the program and hire a more proven coordinator.
Smart was gushing over Lanning’s game plan for Kentucky last season.
In hindsight, Smart’s remarks about Lanning should have provided some strong hints the outside linebackers coach could be on deck for the coordinator position.
“He’s got fresh ideas, he’s been with different defensive coaches, he’s got ideas in the room that are outside of our box,” Smart said last November. “He does a great job with his presentations to our defense.
“He gave one last week that was epic on behalf of Benny Snell and Kentucky. He does a tremendous job and he’s really helped D’Andre Walker become a better player.”
The Bulldogs are loaded at outside linebacker, even after Walker’s departure and Brenton Cox’s transfer.
Redshirt freshman Azeez Ojulari is currently a projected starter, but close behind 5-star true freshman Nolan Smith and top-rated JUCO transfer Jermaine Johnson are competing for snaps.
Reed said Lanning’s energy level make him a popular coach to play under.
“Most definitely his energy is phenomenal, no matter how it looks outside, he’s going to bring that energy every day,” Reed said. “We could be down by 40 and he’ll still bring energy.
“Vocally, physically, jumping up and down, I don’t know how he keeps his voice, he’s like Coach Smart, his voice never goes out.”
It’s a good thing, because Lanning said he’s planning to call on several players to step up on defense.
“I’ll say this, especially going into this year, we’re not going to play 11 players on defense,” Lanning said. “We’re going to play a lot of guys. We’ve got a lot of experience returning. I’m looking to play as many guys as we can that are ready to play.”