ATHENS — Dan Lanning is in his first year as a defensive coordinator at Georgia. It’s a big job that comes with some lofty expectations and responsibilities.
Fortunately for him, any time he might have a possible question about his role or how much he should be doing, he can ask one of the best defensive coordinators of the past decade on what he should be doing with regards to the defense in Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.
“It all starts with our head coach,” Lanning said. And lucky for me, every day where I’m having to question how I’m operating as a defensive coordinator, I can look to my left and ask the guy who was the best defensive coordinator in the nation for nine years.”
Lanning was promoted from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator following Mel Tucker’s departure for the head coaching job at Colorado.
The new Georgia defensive coordinator reiterated that it won’t just be himself replacing Tucker, but every defensive coach on the staff.
“Right now, I’m in charge of being the head coach of the defense. My job is to make coach Smart’s job easier,” Lanning said. “But I don’t do that alone. I do that with every coach we have on defense. It’s going to be a collective unit from today all the way to the end of the season.”
Lanning was Georgia’s outside linebackers coach a season ago after coming over from Memphis. But his time with Smart dates back even further than that, as Lanning was an analyst for Alabama during the 2015 season. That Smart and Tucker’s final year at Alabama, before both came over to join Georgia.
When speaking with the press, Lanning admitted that he’s spent a lot of time watching and learning from both Smart and Tucker as to how the defensive coordinator should function.
“When he (Smart) was the defensive coordinator, I watched him and saw how he operated and learned what are the requirements of the position,” Lanning said. “Getting to be here with coach Tucker, a phenomenal football coach, and getting to see how he operated as a coach. So I understand what the position requires and don’t need a ton of details.”
Smart served as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator from 2008 through 2015 at Alabama, where the duo won four national championships.
Lanning did get an audition of sorts last season when he stepped in for Tucker during the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs lost that game to Texas, with the defense struggling at times to slow Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
When asked about the experience on Monday, Lanning was pretty honest in how he’s looked back on the experience.
“You watch the Sugar Bowl?” Lanning asked a reporter. “It was obviously a great learning experience, but it left a sour taste in our mouth. But that was last year and the 2019 team is completely different from the 2018 team.”
Georgia’s defense returns a number of contributors from last season’s team, led by safety J.R. Reed and linebacker Monty Rice. But the group must replace leading pass rusher D’Andre Walker as well Jim Thorpe Award winner Deandre Baker at cornerback.
Lanning will have a number of options to turn to when it comes to improving his defense, much like he will able to hear a number of different perspectives on he should tweak the Georgia defense.
But when it comes time to make a final decision, Lanning is comfortable knowing that he’ll be the one that has the final say on some aspects.
As long as I’m here it will always be by committee. We’ll always work together to get whatever we need to accomplish. But there are some things I’m going to be charged with that will require more decisions to be made.
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