Dan Lanning Is the Best Recruiter in the Country

David Marsh Editorials

Dan Lanning and company are the best recruiters in the country right now. Now, anyone who wants to go ahead and look at recruiting rankings will note that Oregon did not finish first in 2024, but the reality is that there are three parts to recruiting, and no single ranking encompasses them all.

These three parts are high school recruitment, the transfer portal, and roster retention. Teams like Georgia and Clemson have opted to focus mostly on high school recruitment, whereas teams like Ole Miss and Colorado have opted to build their rosters more heavily through the portal. Those are more extreme examples of recruiting on either end of recruiting spectrum, and most teams use both.

But Oregon does it best.

High School Recruitment

Let’s start with the obvious recruitment ranking here and look at Lanning’s high school recruitment for the 2024 class. Oregon landed a top 10 class across the three major recruiting services: Oregon ranked sixth on Rivals, third on 247 Sports, and fourth on On3.

Josh Conerly, Jr. is one of Lanning’s biggest high school recruits to date.
(Photo by Vasco Dixon)

Even in the era of the transfer portal, high school recruitment makes up the backbone of all the top programs in college football. The fact of the matter is, the portal fills up with a lot of players but not a whole lot of high-level talent, at least from top programs that are not undergoing a coaching change. Furthermore, there isn’t a lot of high-quality offensive and defensive line talent in the portal.

Between Mario Cristobal and Lanning, Oregon has dominated West Coast recruiting, especially when it comes to linemen. Perhaps the best example of how this methodology has paid off is the game between Oregon and Colorado last season. Oregon’s lines have been built deliberately over years of prep recruiting, with some key transfers, whereas Colorado’s lines were built almost exclusively through the portal, and there was no question who owned the line of scrimmage.

There isn’t a substitute for recruiting high school talent.

Portal Recruiting

We had some incredible news recently when former Michigan State Defensive Lineman Derrick Harmon announced he was transferring to Oregon. As mentioned earlier, quality linemen are a rarity in the transfer portal, and Oregon landing Harmon is massive. He is a huge body, listed at 6’5” and 320 pounds, and was highly coveted by teams all over the country, but he choose Lanning and the Ducks. Additionally, as of Sunday, the Ducks landed coveted former Alabama safety Peyton Woodyard as well.

This isn’t the first lineman that Lanning picked up from the portal this cycle either, as the Ducks landed Jamaree Caldwell from Houston and Matthew Bedford from Nebraska.

Tez Johnson was a portal recruit in 2023 and has made a massive impact with Oregon.
(Photo by Steven Chan)

Beyond the line of scrimmage Lanning scored some big wins in the transfer portal this cycle by landing high profile players such as: Jabbar Muhammad, Evan Stewart, Dante Moore, and Dillon Gabriel. In Moore and Gabriel, Oregon landed the two best quarterbacks in the portal.

All this culminated in Oregon securing transfer portal rankings of: No. 10 from Rivals, No. 2 from 247 Sports, and No. 5 from On3. This is another dominant showing from the Oregon Ducks in recruiting and shows how Lanning is using the portal to supplement areas of need with high-quality talent.

Roster Retention

In the era of NIL and the transfer portal there is another factor that needs to be brought into recruiting — roster retention. Players are free to leave for the portal and search for a new team, where they may see more playing time or recieve a better payday. This means a coaching staff can no longer take their current roster for granted and must constantly  recruit their own players. Especially their high-quality backups.

And unsurprisingly, Lanning has done just that, even though there is no ranking to quantify his success.

As of writing this article, 247 Sports, which appears to have the most updated list, has 20 players who have transferred from Oregon. Of these 20, there are only nine players who have had meaningful contributions at some point in their Oregon careers. Of these nine, only Trikweze Bridges and Kris Hutson have started games in their Oregon careers. Both of them have been surpassed on the depth chart. In Hutson’s case, he opted to sit for the 2023 season to preserve his red shirt rather than play as a backup.

Charles Fischer had a great forum post concerning Ben Roberts entering the portal, which at first felt like a blow to the Ducks, but in reality, Roberts was probably a third-string player.

Lanning isn’t losing the players he wants to keep on the roster, as there are only a handful of players who transferred out of Oregon that Lanning would have liked to keep. All the rest of the transfers are opening up room for new talent acquisitions to make the team better.

Trikweze Bridges against UCLA in 2022.
(Photo by Craig Strobeck)

Lanning Is the Best Recruiter in the Country

This culminates in Lanning being the best recruiter in the country. The most meaningful stat in all of this is that Oregon is the only team to land both a top 10 high school recruiting class and a top 10 transfer portal class across all three major recruiting services. Ohio State, Texas, and Alabama do appear in two of the three for the transfer portal top 10s, but only Oregon is in all three.

Oregon’s NIL supporters are one of the major keys to this success, and the Ducks may have the best NIL backers in the country with Division Street. Division Street may not throw around as much money as other NIL collectives but what is clear is they know how to manage their resources. They don’t get into bidding wars early in recruiting cycles, which often leads to Oregon “missing” on targets earlier in the year, but surging late in the cycle.

Because of this, Lanning has the resources to go after high-profile players of need in the transfer portal once the prep signing period is closed. Lanning also doesn’t pursue every big name in the portal but is selective with his needs and personality fits so he doesn’t waste Division Street’s resources by star chasing. This means that come the spring window, the Ducks still have resources to go after some big names such as Harmon.

They do all this while ensuring that those on the roster get a fair deal on their own NIL. As fans, we do not get to peek into the inner workings of any NIL collective’s operations but we can see the results, and it is clear that Division Street is doing a fantastic job.

In this age of recruiting, teams need to constantly attack all three phases of recruiting to ensure they have the right talent on the field. No one is doing it better right now than Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks. Now it’s time to see these recruitment victories turn into a National Championship.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By Steven Chan


Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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