Dan Lanning’s Pursuit of Elite: Areas of Improvement

Duckster Editorials

Recently I posted the beginning of a planned multiple article look into Dan Lanning’s goal to elevate Oregon Football from Good to Elite in the OBD forum. Today I want to begin focusing on areas of improvement, starting with the external.When I spoke to Mr. FishDuck about this topic, he took time aside from his fun at IPL betting cricket to chime in with agreement with my observations. Let’s dive in …

A few weeks ago, possibly the greatest CFB Coach of all time (aka: Nick Saban) retired and specifically cited current players attitudes surrounding the NIL and Guaranteed Playing Time as major reasons for leaving the game. If this doesn’t convince you that NIL has changed everything in the world of College Football, then probably nothing will. So adapting recruiting strategies around todays players, and mastering the NIL become prerequisites for Lanning in order for the Ducks to ascend to the status of elite.

I mentioned last week that coaching turnover over the past decade has crippled Oregon, especially in areas of player development and the alignment of system and scheme. So it’s little wonder that recruiting at Oregon has been all over the map over this chaotic period ( 5 Head Coaches in 10 years !!). Sure, the class ratings look good on paper … “Top 15, Top 10, #1 in the Pac 12” … but in terms of production on the field, has that really been the case?

As an illustration of this exact point, “The Athletic” recently ran an excellent article about 2020 Pac 12 recruiting results for each team. Oregon’s class was “rated” No. 1 in the conference, and here’s a look back at the true impact of that class:

Oregon’s disappointing 2020 Recruiting Class. (From The Athletic, Antonio Morales, 2-26-2024

In retrospect, the lesser rated classes of Utah, Oregon State, Washington, and others surpassed Oregon’s by a significant margin in actual on field production. Two things jump out at me when looking at this list. When it comes to recruiting, Mario Cristobal was and still is a “Star Chaser. “ His alignment of player to scheme always took a back seat to the number of stars he collected (yet another reason why he’ll likely fail at Miami). Jay Butterfield is a drop back, pro style QB, while Robbie Ashford is an athletic run first – read option threat, with little pocket presence.

So Mario my son, what system are you actually attempting to run ???

The second is an illustration of what happens to players caught in coaching and scheme change. Noah Sewell had standout freshman and sophomore seasons with the Ducks. More an old school interior linebacker, Sewell excelled at shedding blocks, filling gaps and attacking the line of scrimmage. When Lanning came in for his junior year, Sewell was given more responsibility in zone type coverages, lots of read and react, requiring more lateral quickness and drop back skills.

It was by far his worst year. Many times he looked a step slow to react, or was caught out of position to make a play. Same player, same skill set, but a poor match for Lanning new defensive scheme.

IMHO it was also the major factor behind watching the lesser rated predominantly 3 star lines of teams like Utah and Oregon State outplay our 4 and 5 stars with regrettable frequency. But it did not end with the 2020 recruiting class, as Mr. FishDuck pointed out in a FishDuck article how the record class of 2021 only had six players remaining on the 2023 team this last fall. Lanning’s recruits passed them already on the depth chart, and the majority had transferred out.

The Fiesta Bowl is only the beginning with Dan Lanning… (Photo by Tom Corno)

Moving forward, Lanning must and likely will (with his continuity at the helm) better match player to scheme, thereby allowing for true player development to take place. Because here’s the deal … we can debate all day about the value of recruiting and its’ importance in becoming elite. But without coaching, scheme alignment and player development, recruiting becomes overrated.

The reason that Bama’ and Georgia have been the gold standard of elite, isn’t just about recruiting 5-stars. It’s about Kirby Smart and Nick Saban establishing a their program’s culture and identity, and then coaching, developing and molding those amazing 5-star talents into something truly spectacular.

Disagree? Look at Texas A&M under Jimbo Fisher, or Miami under Mario. Lots and lots of stars, but to what end?

So my fellow Duck brethren, I’m about done preaching for the day. What say you?

(Share your thoughts in the only forum-with-decorum for Oregon fans)

Cupertino, California
Top Photo by Tom Corno

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the FishDuck.com publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

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