UGa’s Smart faces former assistant Lanning in season opener

Aug 29, 2022, 9:35 PM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 9:39 am
FILE - Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the first ha...

FILE - Georgia head coach Kirby Smart speaks with Alabama head coach Nick Saban before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Atlanta. When the NCAA instituted a policy last summer allowing athletes to earn money off use of their name, image and likeness, the notion was that it would give players a chance to make a little money but wouldn’t be used as a recruiting weapon. That’s not how it’s worked out. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — When you build a powerhouse program, it’s inevitable that others will try to copy your success.

That means hiring people who work for you.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart will see another familiar face on the opposing sideline Saturday when the reigning national champion Bulldogs open the season against No. 11 Oregon.

Smart’s former defensive coordinator, Dan Lanning, is now guiding the Ducks. In his head coaching debut, he’ll take on the No. 3 Bulldogs in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta.

“There’s definitely some feelings of excitement for me to go play a team I care about and was a big part of for a long time,” Lanning said. “But that’s not the focus. My job, as well as the players’ job, is to focus on the task at hand.”

As Smart heads into his seventh season as the Bulldogs’ boss, the list of assistants-turned-head coaches is growing.

He is 2-0 against his ex-offensive line coach, Arkansas’ Sam Pittman, and last year beat South Carolina’s Shame Beamer, who was on Smart’s staff in 2016 and ’17.

Now, the 36-year-old Lanning will become the third of Smart’s former staffers to take a shot at knocking off the old boss.

There won’t be a bunch of warm, fuzzy feelings at the reunion.

“I don’t think the game has anything to do with that,” Smart said. “Neither Dan nor I will be worried about each other during the game.”

The opener, which will be played before what figures to be a very pro-Georgia crowd at 75,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be an early indicator of where both programs stand.

Georgia is looking to make another run at the national championship despite losing a record 15 players in the NFL draft — five of them first-rounders off a stellar defensive unit that carried the Bulldogs to their first title since 1980.

With the Pac-12 in turmoil and speculation that they could soon be headed to the Big Ten, the Ducks hope to build on the success they had during Mario Cristobal’s four-year tenure, which featured a pair of conference championships.

When Cristobal left for Miami, the Ducks quickly turned to Georgia’s co-defensive coordinator.

They made a good choice, according to Smart, whose relationship with Lanning goes back to 2015 when both were on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.

“I had a great relationship with Dan when he worked at University of Alabama, and had a lot of respect for how he went about doing his job,” Smart said. “He didn’t try to be somebody he wasn’t. He didn’t try to impress people. He just worked and he grinded, and he really did a good job of just doing what you asked him to do. I always thought he would be successful.”

When Smart left for his first head coaching job at Georgia in 2016, he kept an eye on Lanning. The Bulldogs had an opening on their staff two years later and hired him as the outside linebackers coach.

“It ended up being a no-brainer for us to bring Danny in because I knew the value he had,” Smart recalled.

Lanning was promoted to co-defensive coordinator a year later after Mel Tucker left for Colorado, receiving much of the credit for building one of college football’s greatest defenses.

“I knew he was going to do a great job,” Smart said.

Lanning’s co-coordinator, Glenn Schumann, is still at Georgia. He’ll continue in that role along with former Florida and South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp.

Smart said it’s been a smooth transition, especially because Muschamp was already on the staff as special teams coordinator.

“Dan would be the first to tell you he never would’ve had the success he had here if not for Glenn Schumann,” Smart said. “I felt comfortable Glenn would be able to take it over along with Will. It’s great when we have two guys that know the system and two guys that can share that responsibility.”

Before he even coached a game, Lanning had to deal with tragedy within his new team.

Tight end and social media star Spencer Webb died last month in an accidental fall at a popular swimming lake. The Ducks will wear a special decal on their helmets this season featuring Webb’s No. 4 inside a spider web.

“Our team has a void,” Lanning said. “It’s something you certainly cannot replace. I’ve talked to our players about that moment and Spencer, how on your tombstone there’s a day you were born and a day when you passed, but what made Spencer special was how he lived that dash in between those two numbers.”

In addition to an entirely new coaching staff, the Ducks have a bunch of newcomers on their roster. They brought in 21 players through the transfer portal, 15 of them from Power Five schools.

Lanning has plenty of familiarity with Georgia’s defense.

Of course, that works both ways.

“Kirby Smart is not going to play a single snap on Saturday, and neither is Dan Lanning,” the Oregon coach said. “It doesn’t really matter what I know. It’s what my players know and how well they can execute.”


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at


More AP college football: and Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter:

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers trains at The Grove in Chandler's Cross, England, Frida...
Associated Press

Rodgers eager to air it out in Packers’ 1st London game

WATFORD, England (AP) — Aaron Rodgers may need to have a little chat with Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur about the game plan for the Packers’ first game in London. After arriving in the British capital on an overnight flight, LaFleur was quick to tout the importance of the run game on Sunday against […]
1 day ago
FILE - Police officers and soldiers stand amid tear gas smoke after clashes between fans during a s...
Associated Press

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Police fire tear gas into a crowd of soccer fans, who panic and rush for the exits. There are so many trying to escape and some of the gates are locked. The stadium becomes a death trap. People are trampled in the desperation. Others suffocate, crushed by the weight of bodies around them. They are […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AP) — Iran forward Sardar Azmoun is a doubt for the World Cup after picking up an injury while warming up for Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga club said late Thursday that the 27-year-old Azmoun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a muscle in his right calf in the warm-up […]
1 day ago
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson (3) walks out to greet teammates after a field goal durin...
Associated Press

Wilson shoulders blame as Broncos fall 12-9 to Colts in OT

DENVER (AP) — Russell Wilson had a chance to put the game away late. He threw an interception in the end zone. The Denver Broncos quarterback had another shot to win the game in overtime. He threw a game-ending incompletion on fourth-and-short while never looking at an uncovered receiver. Brought in for moments such as […]
1 day ago
Bryson DeChambeau looks at his club after hitting his tee shot on the fourth hole during the final ...
Associated Press

3 tied for lead after 1st round of LIV Golf in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Richard Bland, Branden Grace and Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra upstaged their more-illustrious opponents on Friday to shoot 7-under 65s and share the lead after the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational-Bangkok. Marc Leishman and Ian Poulter were a stroke behind while Kim Sihwan, Brooks Koepka and Morgan Jediah were among those two […]
1 day ago
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico powers his car during first practice session for the Japanes...
Associated Press

Verstappen set to win a second straight F1 season title

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc knows it. So does anyone following Formula One; no calculators needed. Red Bulls’ Max Verstappen is set to win his second straight drivers’ title, and it’s likely to come on Sunday with rain predicted for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Friday’s two practice sessions were run in […]
1 day ago
UGa’s Smart faces former assistant Lanning in season opener