Lanning’s Defense: Setting the Bar

DazeNconfused Editorials

As 36-year-old, first-year HC Dan Lanning takes the keys to the Oregon defense, we’re all wondering what exactly to expect. Lanning led a NCAA title-winning defense last year, so what can he do with the Ducks’ roster?

Lanning inherits a defensive roster that would fall in the Top 3 in the SEC, as most of the players on the two-deep depth-chart are blue-chip players. The Ducks defense will be the strength of this team, and Lanning has the personnel he needs in order to work his magic.

Defensive Line is Deepest Ever

This unit goes six deep with serious dudes who play with mean streaks, led by Brandon Dorlus and Popo Aumavae. Both players were three-star recruits who developed into first team All Pac-12 selections last year. Fourth-year sophomore Keyon Ware-Hudson, a four-star out of legendary Mater Dei high school, just might be the next breakout player developed by UO.

Keyon Ware-Hudson may be the next breakout defensive lineman the Ducks have developed.

Sam “Taki” Taimani is a Washington transfer who was rated the fifth-best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 by Pro Football Focus last season. Taki at 330 lbs is the big nose tackle Lanning likes in the middle. He made 43 tackles in 2021 — third best for interior lineman in the Pac-12. It’s going to be fun adding Taki to the mix this year; he will cause teams chaos! He will provide an instant impact and he could very well be the starter.

New defensive line coach Tony Tuioti brought in two veteran transfers he coached at Nebraska. Senior Jordan Riley is a 310-lb nose type, and he and junior Casey Rogers have 31 combined games of experience over last two seasons. Both are B1G maulers, but I’m super high on Rogers! In the last two years he posted 42 tackles, six for loss. Rogers is another impact addition that Duck fans are going to love watching this year.

This may be Oregon’s top-to-bottom best defensive line unit ever! On top of that incredible front rotation, depth players such as Sua’ava Poti, Keanu Williams, and Maceal Afaese bring game experience and depth.

The Outside Backers Will Star

DJ Johnson and Mase Funa, both Top 75 recruits on the 247 Composite, give Lanning elite bookends on the edge. These LBs are expected to have big seasons in what is expected to be their last before moving on to the NFL.

Ducks linebacker Mase Funa takes down Nevada QB Carson Strong for the sack during his freshman year.

Pass rush specialist Bradyn Swinson will star in Lanning’s system and provide the highest ratio of impact plays per snaps on the team. It would not be surprising to see Swinson or Johnson post double-digit sacks this year.

Flowe and Sewell are Best ILB Combo in FBS

Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell, the highest-rated pair of starting inside linebackers in college football, are as good as it gets! Lanning knows how to use the two stars to make each other better and make his defense unstoppable.

Lanning’s aggressive playcalling and blitz schemes will release Flowe and Sewell to wreak havoc. Look for both players to record career highs in sacks and tackles for loss. The primary depth will come from four-stars Jeffrey Bassa, Jackson LaDuke and Keith Brown.

The linebacker room is loaded with quality talent and depth, making it one of the best in the nation.

Sophomore Keith Brown — a local talent out of Lebanon, Oregon — is the third-highest-rated LB recruit in the program.

The DBs All Have Talent

Former freshman All-American Bennett Williams, excellent in run support and a ball hawk, is the leader in the secondary. The starting corners, five-star Dontae Manning and All Pac-12 transfer Christian Gonzalez, have the talent to be a top pair of corners in the conference. Bryan Addison 6’4 and Trikwese Bridges, 6’3 with a seven-foot wingspan, give the Ducks possibly the longest pair of safeties in FBS!

Steve Stephens and Jamal Hill bring game starting experience at the safety position, with young blue-chip depth behind them. Avante Dickerson is a high four-star corner who will be in the rotation, while depth comes from highly-rated incoming freshman Jalil Tucker and Jahlil Florence.

The Ducks’ best success in recruiting under Mario Cristobal came with the defensive back positions. The Ducks may have lost Mykael Wright and Verone McKinley, but Oregon just reloads every year!

Jamal Hill_Pac12 Video.jpg

Jamal Hill made a big time interception in the 2020 Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Bar is a Top 10 Defense

The Ducks’ front seven is the strength of his team, led by a vaunted linebacker group of future NFL draft picks. But the defensive line has some elite guys and goes a solid three deep on the depth chart for a playing rotation! The defensive line is going to come at teams in waves all game, giving the big men fresh fourth quarter legs!

Mr. FishDuck agrees with me and wrote that this may be one of the Ducks’ all-time best front seven groups (read his article here). This unit may break the record for team totals for sacks with Lanning’s scheme! As talented and deep as the defensive back group is, it’s almost outrageous not to acknowledge them as the strength of the team!

That’s just a confirmation of the statement I already made (“this is a Top 3 SEC defense“).

Coach Lanning is going to take the deep defensive talent on this roster and field the most impressive defense we have ever seen at Oregon! With the depth the Ducks have, we won’t see an injury cripple a position or unit like last year. We will see starting players from every position group star, while having the best years of their career.

I expect we will see records broken and Duck fans years to come will talk about the 2022 defense Lanning coached in his first year! What do you think, Duck Fans? Share your thoughts in the OBD Forum!

Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Oregon Football Video

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.


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