Four-star defensive lineman Christen Miller poses with Oregon Ducks coach Dan Lanning during an official visit to campus in January. (Courtesy of Christen Miller)
Dan Lanning bought his first fly-fishing rod and a pair of boots last week. He hasn’t used them yet, but one of Lanning’s assistants at the University of Oregon is an avid angler and they’ve talked about finding a quiet creek or river to fish sometime.
The head football coach and his wife, Sauphia, are also in escrow on a home in Eugene. They close on the house in a couple of weeks. It’s a mile from campus.
“I like that because when we have unofficial visitors I can bring them to the house,” Lanning told me on Saturday. “We found a house that works for now. I’m anxious to see my wife and kids and get the family out here.”
That’s the state of things with Dan Lanning — resident new guy. His wife and three boys, ages 12, 10 and 8, are still packing up in Georgia. But Lanning told me when the family flew into Eugene for his introductory news conference in December the boys’ faces were pressed against the windows as the plane approached the airstrip.
“Dad, look!” his oldest shouted. “Mountains!!”
I couldn’t help but wonder what Lanning thinks when he sees Oregon’s physicality. Mountains? Or spaces where he needs more of them? At his last stop the ex-defensive coordinator had a roster filled with five-star recruits and massive bodies. The University of Georgia’s defensive line featured Jordan Davis (6-foot-6, 360 pounds) and Jalen Carter (6-3, 315) among others.
“Mario (Cristobal) did a really good job of getting size and athleticism on the offensive line,” Lanning said. “Philosophically I want guys first and foremost who know how to play football, but if we can get bigger, longer and add depth — now you’re cooking with gas.”
One of Lanning’s early creations in Eugene is something he’s calling, “Get Real Wednesdays.” The Ducks’ coaching staff uses it as a midweek opportunity to connect with their football players, bond and talk with authenticity.
“We might eat a meal or play laser tag,” Lanning said.
There’s weight work and conditioning drills, too. But it’s evident Lanning is trying to foster comfort with a core group of returning Ducks players who will arrive at spring practice feeling more connected to the program’s mission.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve picked up right away,” Lanning said, “the returning players have a lot of ‘WANT-TO.’ They know how to work.”
Lanning is a first-time, first-year head coach. His offensive and defensive coordinators are relatively inexperienced as autonomous play-callers. The average age of Oregon’s coaching staff: 40 years old. None of the assistants is older than 48. The staff has proven it can recruit. But I’m especially eager to see it coach and develop players.
Will the Ducks struggle with game management?
Or will they soar?
I found it interesting that Lanning is spending some of his key time attending other UO sporting events. He went to two men’s basketball games and watched coach Dana Altman work. He caught a women’s basketball game and saw Kelly Graves perform. This week he also attended his first Ducks baseball game to see Mark Wasikowski’s team.
“I want to experience Eugene,” Lanning said.
UO special teams coach Joe Lorig is from the Pacific Northwest, was a team captain at Western Oregon and his wife is from Klamath Falls. Lorig encouraged Lanning to buy the boots and fishing rod. Lanning said he’s looking forward to seeing more of the state.
“People don’t realize how beautiful it is here.”
I’ve talked a few times with Lanning, one-on-one. We spoke Saturday for a while about football, real estate, fishing and family. Then the conversation turned to his wife, Sauphia, who beat bone cancer when he was a linebackers coach at the University of Memphis in 2016.
He and Sauphia were walking around Seattle when her knee started bothering her. Lanning said he didn’t take it seriously at first, and even joked that she should, “pop a Tylenol,” but he quickly realized something wasn’t right in her knee area.
“Osteosarcoma,” doctors said.
Surgeons removed a tumor and Sauphia had a total knee replacement. There was bone-cancer therapy. I asked Lanning after he was hired at Oregon what he learned from that experience.
“There’s a lot of things in life more important than football. That’s the first thing I learned,” he said. “That really helped re-prioritize my life and the whole dynamic of our family. I was able to put my wife and our kids first. That hasn’t limited my success as a football coach.
“You can be a husband and a father first and still be a great coach.”
Work-life balance is a relatable dilemma, isn’t it?
Said Lanning: “That experience for me reshaped my why.”
Dan Lanning will soon have spring practice, fall camp, then find himself coaching his first major college football game as a head coach. The Ducks travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 3 to play Lanning’s former team — defending national champion Georgia.
Chip Kelly’s first game in 2009 was a sobering and concerning loss at Boise State, but Kelly’s first season culminated in a Rose Bowl appearance and 10 victories. Mark Helfrich’s debut in 2013 came against Nicholls State, a 66-3 win. Helfrich won 11 games in his inaugural year and went to the Alamo Bowl. Willie Taggart put 77 points on hapless Southern Utah in his first game but finished with only seven wins. And Cristobal beat Bowling Green 58-24 in Game No. 1 on his way to nine victories and a Redbox Bowl win.
Game one doesn’t appear to define much, really. I’m not sure season one is definitive either. But that first full season certainly appears to set a tone and establish a baseline. I think that may be more important for the 35-year-old Lanning than it was for some of his predecessors.
There’s been a lot made in the last couple of months about Lanning’s hire and Oregon’s program trajectory. He’ll have strong resources at Oregon, the backing of mega-booster Phil Knight and inherit a roster that had some good talent. The Pac-12 feels like a conference in transition.
Athletic director Rob Mullens said when he hired Lanning that he felt like he was talking with a guy who “had been planning for this job for years.” The AD said he wanted to hire a program CEO and it‘s Lanning’s operation now.
Soon the focus will be spring football practice.
“I’m pumped,” Lanning said. “Being on the grass is still my favorite thing to do.”
Lanning and his wife will soon close on their new home, move in, and their three children will make new friends. He said he’s excited to get the whole family in Oregon. He flew back to Georgia immediately after February signing day and hung out, went to dinner, and exhaled for a day or two. It’s mostly been FaceTime and telephone calls with his family since then.
Dan Lanning owns a fly-fishing rod and a pair of size 13 boots. He still needs an Oregon driver’s license, but he‘s on his way to becoming an Oregonian.

Subscribe to the John Canzano weekly email newsletter.
Tweet me: @JohnCanzanoBFT
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 5/1/2021).
Cookie Settings
© 2022 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.
Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.
Ad Choices LogoAd Choices


By faress

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.