UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning comments on 2020 season
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UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning comments on 2020 season

Dan Lanning
Photo: Perry McIntyre/UGA

UGA football defensive coordinator Dan Lanning spoke to the media on Friday afternoon as the Bulldogs close out their first week of practice.

Below is a transcript of Lanning’s comment that was provided by UGA:

Opening Statement

“I hope everybody is having a great day. Excited to be talking about football this time of the year. Obviously, I am very appreciative to our staff, our players, our medical staff, our coaches—coordinating in a unique time. Coach Smart talks about it all the time—having mental agility—is kind of the new phrase in our program. Our guys have handled adjustment extremely well, and really attacked everything that we’re trying to get accomplished in our program.”

On starting his third season with Georgia and the roots he has put down in the program and the community…

“Yeah, absolutely, and really excited to be. You are always talking about being in a place—I’ve got three kids, my wife Sophia and I. You talk about being in a place you would love to raise your family, and Athens [has] truly been that place. Three years, for me in college football, this will be the longest I’ve been anywhere. Sometimes it takes that progression to get you there in your career, and I am very fortunate to be in a place where I could see myself for a long time.”

On what areas in particular he is looking to attack in the preseason…

“The biggest thing I think we’ve emphasized so far this offseason is the finish. You know, we’ve talked about havoc plays on here a lot in the past, and that is still definitely a big focus for us, but we want to get the ball out. We want to finish. We want to impact the game by having some game-changing plays that we can create, and our players have really embraced that so far.”

On finishing statistically-well last season and how the defense continues to get better…

“Ultimately for us it’s about wins. That was 2019. This is 2020. It really has no correlation, and we have to start from scratch. By no means are we the ’85 [Chicago] Bears. We got a lot of work to do, but our guys are embracing the challenge of getting better and focusing on that. It starts with the details, right? It starts with today, not tomorrow, not the first game. We got to really focus on today first.”

On what he means by “finish” and if that a part of the havoc-rate…

“Yeah, it’s really a combination of everything. You know, football is such a unique sport and a standpoint in that you can win 90% of the play, and if the last 10% of the play the wide receiver catches the ball—you didn’t do your part. If you don’t get to the quarterback, you might have a great pass-rush move, but if you don’t finish on the quarterback—it doesn’t matter. If you cover somebody perfectly or fit a gap perfectly, but you don’t make the tackle or get the ball out—it doesn’t matter. So, the key to us is we are finishing 100% of the play, and even if we are behind in the first 80%, how we finish that play can be a key to success.”

On if the offseason analysis pinpointed areas that were weak-points last year…

“I don’t know about weak-link, but I think something that Coach Smart’s done for a very long time, and what we have done for a very long time is go back and say, ‘What can we do better?’ And that is something that I think we all wanted to focus on when we do our self-scout and analyze ourself.”

On what he thinks Coach Smart has learned from him during his time coaching at Georgia…

“I have no clue. I have learned a lot from Coach Smart. I know we have a lot of fun on our side of the ball. I love coaching with the guys that we coach with. I know Coach Smart really enjoys coaching with our staff and our players. This is a really fun group of players to coach. So, I think we have a great time. We work really hard and push our guys to excel, but I’ve learned a whole more from Coach Smart than he’s learned from me. I can promise you that.”

On what challenges he has seen defending Todd Monken’s style of offense…

“Yeah, absolutely. One think I think that’s unique about Todd [Monken]—I’m not going to tell you what plays we’re running, right? But what’s really fun is he’s the definition of a coach that’s—he obviously has a lot of experience, knows exactly what he wants from his product. He is very demanding of his guys and what right execution looks like, but he is also very adaptable to change. The game has changed over the years, and I think you see a lot of pieces of that in his offensive game plan.”

On what dynamic he has seen with the peer-intervention method they are using to keep everyone on track with social-distancing and mask-wearing…

“I think there is a realization with our guys, and what’s required for us to be able to play like we want to play this year, and our guys have really bought into that. Every meeting we are giving reminders. We’re being very diligent and transparent as a program, and the safety precautions we’re taking for our guys. They have embraced that because ultimately we all have the same goal and what we want to achieve.”

On how the team is adapting to new safety measures…

“I think our guys have taken it very serious from the beginning. I think a lot of credit goes to Ron Courson and our medical staff really educating them from day one. So, I think everybody is taking it serious, and they’re trying to fall in line. Our strength staff has done a great job of protecting our guys. So, I think our guys have done a good job there.”

On having to do more cross training…

“The way we practice gives a lot of guys opportunities. We get a ton of reps in for our guys at practice, so I think those opportunities have been created through the way we structured it. We’ve always had, whether it be two spot drills, how we’re practicing with our players, guys getting a lot of reps. It’s definitely challenged our guys, but we’ve handled it really well.”

On Tyrique Stevenson and Eric Stokes…

“I think Eric [Stokes] and Tyrique [Stevenson] have both done a good job. Tyrique is not the only person who gets multiple positions, we work with almost all of our guys when we cross train. There is going to be change, this is where the mental agility is going to come in. We have to be prepared to work in several different spots.”

On Richard LeCounte and his development over his career…

“Richard [LeCounte] is a player that plays with instincts and that shows up. What he has learned over the years is to play with those same instincts within the framework of our defense and our system. I think every single one of our players still needs to be coached, but Richard’s production, a lot of it comes from those instincts. He’s done a good job of honing that in to fit the system where he’s able to make plays. That’s what we’ve focused on with him and he’s done a really good job with that.”

On what part of the LSU offense people may try to “copycat” off of, and how they’re going to prepare for it…

“That was a big study piece for us this offseason. I think we’re going to see more and more of that in our league, the SEC has always been on the front end of development when it comes to the game. I think there’s a lot of pieces that are going to be carried over, we’re going to see a lot of ‘copycat’ plays and we have put a lot of focus on how we defend that the best moving forward.”

On younger guys who are showing leadership on the team…

“It’s been three days of practice, but ultimately we have a really mature group of young guys who are eager. I think the mental prep, while it was unique this year, the walkthroughs, the additional zoom meetings, all of that created an opportunity for them to come in and be able to compete. I wouldn’t pick out a guy in particular, but we have a really solid defensive group of young quality players that can come in and contribute.”

On adjustments they are making for an SEC only schedule…

“Ultimately that is what’s unique and special about the SEC, you’re going to play a real team. With that being said, every game we go into we prepare as if we have to utilize our best players, we have to have our best plan to execute regardless of the opponent. That’s one thing Coach Smart has done a great job of, so it really doesn’t matter who we play. So the preparation required is the same, the one key we all know is that we have to be ready quick. We’ve got to be ready to play this first game and it starts at the very beginning. We have a lot of adjustments we’ve made throughout the program this year, just because the uniqueness of the pandemic.”

On who’s the one guy on defense you don’t want to get in the MMA cage with…

“That’s a great question, I’m trying to think of who I don’t want to fight on defense. I think I’d fight just about any of these guys. But we’ve got a good group, we have a bunch of dogs. A comment that was made last year was the ‘no name’ defense and might have been taken the wrong way. A lot of times when I say that, I mean we have a lot of unselfish players. A lot of guys want the ball in their hands at the end of the game, they want to be on the field on fourth down. There’s a lot of guys on our defense I would go to war with right now, I don’t know if I would pick one alpha dog, but we’ve got a really good group of guys.”

On Jordan Davis…

“I have really high expectations for Jordan [Davis]. He has worked really hard, Tray Scott and Coach Williams have done a great job with his development. I think Jordan is really hungry and there’s just not a lot of people born in this world that look like him. So when you look like him, there’s an expectation and I expect him to really achieve the highest level this year, have a phenomenal season and to really help our team and our defense.

On Richard LeCounte and how he has grown at Georgia…

“In the past you had a guy like J.R. Reid that Richard [LeCounte] felt very comfortable in the back end with, and now you look and J.R. isn’t out there. Richard has really embraced the opportunity to learn more, communicate more, be more vocal on the defense and that’s certainly what we’re looking for from him this year.

On what he saw in MJ Sherman, why he was a top recruit and what he expects from him…

“MJ [Sherman] is a tremendous person, he’s got a great mindset, he’s hungry, comes from a really good family, works really hard and he’s conscientious. He’s got all of those things and then he’s got strength, power and agility which we think can be a good asset for him moving forward. I’m excited about his development and to see what he can do.”

On the three Tennessee defensive linemen and Jalen Carter…

“Yeah, absolutely, the Tennessee crew, you know their development, it’s always fun to see year one year two, and when I when I give Coach [Tray] Scott credit, you know he’s done a good job with their development from a standpoint of technique it’s a lot cleaner. We actually did a player development piece yesterday in our defensive meeting where we’re kind of highlighting where guys have improved, and we’re able to show some film of time and early in practice and how he’s doing something wrong, something fixed and adjusted and then really a perfect rep in a team run setting. So, it’s fun seeing those guys come along. Jalen Carter, has play to learn, but he’s very strong, he’s an explosive athlete. We definitely think he can make an impact for us. It’s good to see his technique continuing to get better day in and day out. He definitely makes the guys across the ball better.”

On how Lewis Cine’s experience last season will translate to this season…

“Yeah, ultimately, one of our goals on defense is to play the game as many times as we can before you actually play a game, whether that be through a walkthrough rep, a practice rep, whatever it is. I think Lewis did a phenomenal job of taking all those reps leading into last year, and then when he hit the field, he was ready for his opportunity and did a great job with it. So, I think you can’t put a value on game reps because that’s completely different, but I think, you know, Lewis is a guy that comes up in studies, he does extra, and I think that’s paid off for him in creating opportunities for him moving forward.”

On when he first felt comfortable in his role at Georgia…

“I don’t I don’t remember one particular moment. I just know that people coach their entire career dreaming to coach in a place like Georgia, and that was certainly the case for me. So, getting the opportunity just to be here with the staff that we have, and the players that we have is just really unique. I certainly don’t take that for granted.”

On what it’s been like having more time to spend with his family…

“It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time we, the amount of time that we were at home, rather than on the road recruiting or some of the other things that you’ll do within coaching has been really rewarding from a family standpoint. You know, my wife and kids they make it work for me, and it’s, it’s great getting to spend a lot of quality time with them. This summer, I know my wife was ready for school to start. Our boys are all back in school and excited for that and they are not, for what it’s worth, virtual learning this fall, she was ready to send them back and we’re ready to roll. But yeah it’s been great.”

On what it’s been like on zoom meetings over the offseason…

“I’ll say this, we figured out how to mute and unmute our zooms a lot quicker than you guys (the media). No offense, but we had that the zoom meetings, they never stopped, and it was a lot of fun as a staff to be able to connect with somebody that might be on the other side of the world, whether it be the San Diego Chargers or a high school coach in Florida. We spent a lot of time, you know, and I think the key to all this is when you have more time you want to make sure that you’re careful not to do too much, because ultimately it still comes down to tackling, block destruction and finishing on plays. It was definitely very rewarding from a development standpoint as a staff for us to get with some other people.”

On the mental standpoint of where the players are…

“Our mental prep, you know, that we’ve been able to create through either walk through zoom meetings is actually far further along probably than our physical prep, as far as the technique that’s required to execute something properly. Getting more of those practice reps is going to be really valuable, but the mental prep is definitely probably ahead of the curve.”

On what he wants to see from second year players Nolan Smith and Trayvon Walker…

“You know, I just want to see them maximize the opportunities they get on the field. Both of them are dynamic players. Both of them are very explosive and do a great job there. I think they create issues for the offense with their suddenness, but probably more importantly they finish. Those guys run to the ball. They finish twice, they work really hard on their craft. So just seeing them expand their role as they move forward, I’m excited to see what they do.”

On how much of LSU’s offense last year was player versus execution in the SEC Championship game…

“You know, obviously they have phenomenal players and you don’t want to discredit you know anything they did as a team last year they did a really good job. I think there’s elements of both. Ultimately, we didn’t finish on plays. We were in the right place at times and didn’t capitalize. On the same note they do a lot of unique things with empty. You see more empty in our league now than you ever have before. You see a lot of things from motion standpoint, shifts that they create and it was unique to face but moving forward I don’t know how much of that we’ll see but I know we’ll be more prepared for it.”

On what block destruction means…

“Now a lot of people call it block protection, and I just don’t think that’s a defensive term, you know block destruction we destroy blocks. That’s kind of our mindset on defense here at Georgia. So that’s why we focus on that.”

On what NFL teams the staff spoke with during the offseason…

“I mean I don’t know we talked to a lot of teams. When you think about it, when it was locked down the amount of time, and there was a lot of it. I couldn’t tell you one team, and the fact that I might speak to one, and Coach [Glenn] Schumann might speak to another group, and Coach [Charlton] Warren and Coach [Kirby] Smart. So, we spoke with several teams. I wouldn’t pick one out specifically.”

On Jalen Kimber…

“Jalen has done a really good job you know, from an agility standpoint. He’s still got a build some bulk and get in the weight room and work hard, but he is conscientious, he’s really pays attention to detail. In fact, he’s also on that list of guys we talked about player improvement he did something wrong early in camp, we identified it, Coach Warren worked on it in drills. Then the next day he makes a phenomenal play by executing the proper technique. So, I’m excited to see what he does moving forward.”

On how his relationship with Coach Schumann has evolved during the offseason…
“Glenn and I’ve been close, you know really since 2015 when we both work together at Alabama, and he’s a guy I really lean on a lot with everything we do. He’s really critical to our organization, as well as the rest of our defensive coaches, but I’m very fortunate to get to coach with Glenn, as well as Coach [Charlton] Warren, Coach [Tray] Scott and our crew. We mend really well together, we know each other well just because the amount of time. We have some familiarity. Keeping that group together on our side of the ball was really big for us.”

On Warren Brinson…

“You know, the biggest thing that I was looking for early in Warren was effort, and he has done a really good job. The other day we’re able to point out in practice him finishing twice. The balls thrown down the field and he’s hauling butt from the line of scrimmage to finish and get in position to make a play on a wide receiver down the field. His technique still has some cleaning up to do, we’d love to see him strike with those hands and continue to develop them from a target standpoint, but he is definitely working hard to do that.”

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