New Secrets: Lanning’s Stunning Substitutions

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

Oregon’s starting lineup on defense was beyond startling to me, and while other media have casually passed it off–I am not, as I think it tells us more about head coach Dan Lanning, and how he plans to utilize starters and substitutions. It raises a ton of questions, and yet is also somewhat comforting. Bottom line is that I’ve never seen it before for an opening game at Oregon, and is either damned strange or brilliant. I took a break from my fun at Iowa sportsbook promo codes to take a closer look.

We know that Lanning brought in four superb defensive backs from the portal which allowed two safeties, No. 9 Jamal Hill and No. 28 Bryce Boettcher, to move to MONEY linebacker and they both bulked up to the 228 pound-range for the role. It was not a surprise to see that transfer linebacker Jestin Jacobs was not on the field at MAC linebacker, since he had been recovering from injury. His replacement was No. 2 Jeffrey Bassa, the original starter at MONEY, and that was not a surprise to see him slide over to cover the MAC spot.

But the starter at MONEY was No. 28 Boettcher? The Ducks received a portal transfer in linebacker No. 22 Connor Soelle, who played a ton of snaps in games at Arizona State last year and he bulked up to 227 pounds for his new inside linebacker role. Not only was he passed over by Boettcher, but it was surprising to see that Hill was not starting…since he was brought to the position for precisely this type of situation. Hill has been a very experienced player on the field, and yet the least experienced of the group was the starter?

I was blown away.

Now I love the hometown story, and Bryce actually got the first tackle of the game, and played well. It was just a big surprise to see him starting after just moving to the position a few short months ago. (He played safety in the Spring Game) The surprises continued as all those portal defensive backs were brought in to unseat the assumed starters at corner, and that turned out to be true as No. 11 Trikweze Bridges was not on the field to begin the game, but No. 8 Dontae Manning was? He was not even a starter last year, and was considered the most vulnerable, yet No. 8 was there at corner on the first play.

What I saw next made it hard to focus on the game, as I noted Jake Shipley No. 90 starting, and not one of veteran names? At outside linebacker we saw redshirt freshman No. 32 Emar’rion Winston and not the other well known names? You could knock me over with a Duck feather, and I thought that maybe the heat was already making me hallucinate? Yet getting shook up over those three could not prepare me for the complete stunner of the starting defense. We did not see No. 3, Brandon Dorlus, who is poised for a blockbuster year, but instead saw No. 29, newbie freshman Ashton Porter instead of Dorlus?

Another play blown-up by Brandon Dorlus vs. Portland State. (Photo by Craig Strobeck)

Was Dorlus hurt? No, because not only did he come into the game later, but he ate the Viking offensive linemen up and had a superb game. Yet Porter was the starter? How do we explain this? What is Lanning’s plan or MO for starters and substituting?

Best Depth Ever at Oregon?

This team is so different from last year, as every position group has talented depth like I’ve never seen at Oregon. Perhaps that is the answer–it is depth I have not witnessed for the Ducks as a 37 year season ticket holder, and perhaps there are tactics surrounding such quality depth that Lanning learned at Georgia that it is all foreign to me? My FishDuck Friends–help me out in our free forum.

Zachary Neel of Ducks Wire had an excellent article about the number of snaps by player, and it was interesting that only one defensive player had more than 40 snaps. No. 0, Tysheem Johnson, the transfer from Ole Miss, can play all the secondary positions, thus was on the field as different groups of defensive backs were rotated in over the game. Yet the majority of defenders were in the game for 30 snaps or less, and more bizarre is how two starters, Boettcher and Winston only had 19 snaps, yet began the game?

Khyree Jackson and Dontae Manning started the game, and had 28 snaps while Trikweze Bridges and Jahlil Florence came in and played 17 snaps at corner as well. As you look at the article, and note the defensive line rotations–it almost resembles a “platoon” system due to depth? Or is this his way of messing up the future opponents? Or of sorting out the starters by fire?

Or again–because Mr. FishDuck is not accustomed to such depth–perhaps this is how an elite team with nearly 70% 4/5-Star talent operates?  Somebody–help me out, as I am truly a-fish-out-of-water at the moment.

A beautiful wall of blocking for Ty Thompson. (Screenshot from Pac-12 Network Video)

Watching the game again on replay–I was able to nerd-out on Duck football as I have for the last dozen years of operating FishDuck sites. Above is just breath-taking for an old offensive lineman like yours-truly, as No. 13 Ty Thompson has the ball and is running through a perfect tunnel created by two walls of blockers. You have sophomore No. 76, Josh Conerly Jr., sophomore No. 52 Dave luli, newbie freshman center No. 72, Iapani Laloulu, (watch out for this player who they call “Poncho” in the future) redshirt freshman No. 73 (Green arrow) Kawika Rogers, and senior No. 74 (yellow arrow) Steven Jones.

It is the Will Stein version of a power play where Oregon pulls the off-side guard and tackle–who have to be fast and able to hit and sustain blocks in space, as the playside linemen block down, or to their right and allow their defenders across from them get nailed from the side by the pulling earth-movers. It is these plays that require the defense to bring defenders in closer to stop the easy running yards, which in turn creates space in the secondary for our receivers to make hay.

Gradual substitutions as you see above with offensive linemen are routine to me, and there weren’t surprises to me on offense. But perhaps this extraordinary depth of nine experienced players in the secondary requires a different strategy? Share your thoughts in the forum-with-decorum because…

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Eric Evans of Oregon Football Twitter “X” Account

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