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Dan Lanning: Kirby Smart reminds me every day not to waste a minute

August 5, 2019
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ATHENS - UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning Kirby reminds me every day not to waste a minute.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOjmNQkEJFI&feature=youtu.be

 

 

Fain and Billy Slaughter Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning
Opening statement… 
“We’re excited; I think this is every coach's favorite time of year. You know, we really enjoyed the opportunity to work for our guys and this is really why you get in the profession, the opportunity to teach. Obviously extremely grateful to coach Smart for the opportunity to be here at the University of Georgia and work with the collective unit of coaches that we get to work with. We’ve got a phenomenal staff who do a really good job, and we're really fortunate to get to coach some really, really good players.” 
 
On the hiring process as the defensive coordinator… 
“I think one thing that's great about Coach Smart, anybody that works for him puts himself in a position every day where he's training you for opportunities moving forward. He wants you to think outside the box. So, I think the interview process for me started the day that I got here and probably back to my time when I was at Alabama with Coach. But I think that's for every one of our coaches on staff, as he puts you in situations where you have to think. Try to be ahead of the curve and prepare yourself for a situation if something changes and an opportunity presents itself.”
 
On continuing to work with the outside linebackers… 
“You know I have a real passion for this game, it’s something I really love to do, and I always tell our guys whenever football is over with, make sure you do something you're passionate about. But I think your players take on your mentality. If I coach really casually, and just kind of cruise on cruise control out there, then I expect my players to play that way. So I want to coach with passion so my players play with passion. On a young guy stepping up, we’ve got a ton of competition in that room I'm really, really excited about it. In fact, yesterday we were joking around when we started fitting some runs, the pads came on yesterday, I don't know if you guys know it's Shark Week, but Nolan Smith, we’re calling him Hammerhead now, the way he likes collision runs. There's some really good competition, we’ve got some guys in there that are working really hard but at this point, you know that it's still wide open.”
 
On depth of the edge players… 
“Every year, we do a self-scout, and we try to evaluate what things can we do better, what issues can be created for the offense, and what can we change schematically. And then I think every Fall when you start, you say ‘okay what are the points of emphasis, what are we really going to hammer home,’ because if you try to do everything, you're going to be an expert at nothing, right? So, we want to really focus on how do we coach it and how do we create it. If we emphasize it in that team meeting room, show examples of it every single day. Then I think that more of it's going to show up on the field. In correlation with also what we're doing different schematically, I think that's going to help as well.”
 
On which of the outside linebackers have the opportunity to take the next step in productivity…
“It'd be hard to single out one or two but there's some guys that have had a really good camp so far and obviously we're only three days in. Walter Grant’s a guy that moved around a lot in the Spring and has done some really good stuff coming back; he’ll work with us more full time this Fall. Azeez Ojulari's a guy that finished off the year last year really strong and is doing really well, but I don't think you could put aside the work that Robert Beal’s put in. It's hard to just sit here and say this guy, that guy, and obviously we have some newcomers we're really excited about.”
 
On freshman linebacker Nolan Smith… 
“One thing coming in with guys, you want to make sure that it's not just about stars. I think coming to college is a humbling experience for any person, so Nolan handled that the right way. He's really eager to learn, he's extremely bright and smart. He's one of those guys that signed the signing day papers and then the next day is like, ‘coach, where's my playbook at?’ That's Nolan, and he's great for our room, he motivates our guys, he plays really hard, and you can overcome a lot of young mistakes when you play hard. And that's what's exciting probably about Nolan.” 
 
On lessons and takeaways from coordinating the Sugar Bowl…
“Obviously a great learning experience and a great opportunity but we didn't take advantage of it. I think it left a sour taste in our mouth but that was last year and this is 2019. The 2019 team’s a completely different team than our 2018 team. That's the focus around our very first day, we talked about the guys who were there before and the guys that are there now and it's a different group. I wouldn’t say that we put that game behind us because we like to acknowledge what happened but we've moved on from that. We know that this is a completely different team at this point.”
 
On the Sugar Bowl being a glimpse of what the defense looked like without Deandre Baker and D’Andre Walker…
“They were big keys to our defense but I'll say this, especially going into this year, we're not going to play 11 players on defense. We're going to play a lot of guys. We’ve got a lot of experience returning. I'm looking to play as many guys as we can that are ready to play. So now the expectation is to find the guys that can go in there, put themselves in position to go play and then who's going to take advantage of those opportunities. We’ll play as many as we can.”
 
On his role during the Sugar Bowl and his role now… 
“It was a team effort then and it’s a team effort now. Right now, I'm in charge of being the head coach of the defense. My job is to make Coach Smart’s job easier. But I don't do that alone, I do that with every one of the coaches we have on defense with Coach [Glenn] Schumann, Coach [Tray] Scott, Coach [Charlton] Warren, and it's going to be a collective unit from today, all the way to the end of season and that's the way we're always going to operate. On game day, will there be a little bit of an executive committee? At times. But it all starts with our head coach and lucky for me, every day where I'm having to question, ‘how would I operate as a defensive coordinator in that room,’ I can just look to my left and look at the guy that was the best defensive coordinator in the nation for nine years and ask him a question. As long as I'm here, we’ll always be committed, you know we’ll always work together to get what we need to get accomplished but there's some things I'm going to be charged with that requires some more decisions to be made.”
 
On it being a dream to be a defensive coordinator… 
“Yeah, absolutely. I've always had the goal to be able to be in a position I'm in now and honestly realize how fortunate I am to be in that spot because I know how many good coaches don't get this opportunity. It’s something I've absolutely worked for, and obviously extremely grateful to Coach Smart for that opportunity.”
 
On secondary coach Charlton Warren and what he brings to the meeting room…
Anytime you're able to bring in a coach that’s been some other places, it's always exciting to get some fresh ideas, some new stuff and Coach Warren's an extremely bright coach. He does a really good job and has a lot of experience in the SEC and just across the nation. We're able to sit back and ask him questions about how they've done it different somewhere else to see if it's something we can improve on defensively. And then I think he brings a great discipline to that room with his players, he holds those guys accountable and does a really good job with that. He’s been great for us.”
 
On the expectation of sophomore defensive lineman Jordan Davis…
“To whoop the guy across from him’s butt, that's what I'm expecting, so I hope he gets a chance to watch that because that's what I want to see him do every snap. Obviously, he has to be in great condition to do that, great shape to do that, but Jordan has the potential to be a great player. He has to put that together every single day when he comes to work, and he's one of those guys.”
 
On the ceiling for the defensive line and impressions of freshman Travon Walker…
“It’s hard to measure a ceiling three days in, it's still relatively early in fall camp, especially with yesterday being just the first day of pads. But am I excited about the guys we have in that room? Absolutely. Travon is extremely athletic, is strong, he's really an athletic guy for his size; obviously has the basketball history as a high school player, so I'm definitely excited to see what he can do. He's a guy that's good moving but he's also strong enough to hold the point. So, I don't think I would put a ceiling on Travon and I also wouldn't put a ceiling on our D line at this time.”
 
On freshman linebacker Nakobe Dean and his recruitment process…
“Anytime that you're recruiting guy you always go beyond football, beyond turning on the film and saying, ‘can this guy play for us.’ We do character evaluations. We're going to get into the school and see what the janitor’s going to say about him, see what the secretary says about him. When you go to Horn Lake, Mississippi, there's not a person that's going to say a bad thing about Nakobe Dean. Obviously, he's over a 4.0 student. We knew he was a good student; we knew he was a high-character guy before he ever got here and I think that's just carried over to this time of year.”
 
On evaluating a player in the Spring… 
“Lucky for us, I think we had 14 mid-years. That's huge. [Spring] means getting an extra 15 practices in and then walk-throughs some days in between and meetings. For what we ask our guys to do, I think it's really, really important that they get that extra time and that was obviously a benefit to [Travon Walker]. 
 
On the rigors of academics and someone like Nakobe Dean being an engineering student…
“It's hard for me to talk about the rigors because I was a P.E. major. It was a little bit different. But Nakobe, he's an engineering student, so is Nolan Smith as well as a few other guys on our team that are, and takes his academics extremely serious. I think the very first week he was here, his academic advisor the next day said, ‘I was getting an email from Nakobe after midnight, asking about where's this assignment at.’ He takes pride in it. So, yeah, Georgia’s a great academic school. When you come here you have to perform not only on the field but in the classroom and that's what we ask our guys to do not just, ‘I don't want you to be number one just on the field, you’ve got to be number one in the classroom,’ and he’s of those guys that does that.” 
 
On junior linebacker Jermaine Johnson and bringing him to Georgia…
“Obviously Jermaine’s somebody we're really, really excited about. But at the end of the day, regardless of who you're recruiting, recruiting is about relationships. Jermaine’s a guy when I was at Memphis, I went and watched a junior college football game and I got to see Jermaine Johnson perform that year. And I said, ‘Man, I wish I could recruit that guy,’ but I couldn't. Well now this year I can. When I got here that was one of the early guys that I identified as a target that we could look at and was able to build a relationship with him and we had for a long time and whenever you have a relationship that gives you an opportunity.”
 
On Jermaine Johnson’s time at Independence (Kansas) CC that would fit into the SEC…
“Football is football, right? Football is football in Missouri. Football is football in Kansas. Football is football in Georgia. Obviously, the SEC, though, is a different animal. So, I think it's always hard to compare and contrast but the field still 100 yards, I mean that stuff doesn't change, but the difference in the way you prepare there and the way you prepare here, there's a difference.”
 
On what excites him about the secondary… 
“We’ve got a lot of young talent, and I think if you look at just across our entire defense, it'd be really hard for you to say, ‘this guy's number one, this guy's number two.’ We've got a ton of depth right now across the entire defense, so that's exciting to me. Concern’s always in the secondary. You’re concerned about not giving up explosive plays, having a great discipline, staying on top of the defense and the way you do that is just continue to practice it every single day. But it's the more we get the experience, the communication in the back end is really important. We’re looking for some guys to take on some leadership roles back there. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of experience returning with J.R. Reed; guys like Richard LeCounte. Then some great experience on the outside with Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell, but there's also a lot of newcomers that we're really, really excited about too. But as long as they continue to communicate, make sure they're in position defend the explosive plays, we’ve got a great chance.” 
 
On teaching younger student-athletes who maybe dominated in high school but have to learn in college…
“You put them in a competition scenario. So what do we do, we try to create competition every day; and like you said, a lot of these guys were coming from a situation at 13 where they're the best player on their team, and maybe that competition didn't exist, but when you walk on that field at Georgia, you better get ready to strap it on and go to work or somebody else is going to move ahead. So, competition almost creates itself at our practice because we've got a lot of great players.”
 
On mixing and matching at the linebacker position… 
“At the end of the day, you find roles for guys that are ready and that have prepared for their role. So like I said I don't want to play 11, and we won't, but there's definitely certain packages you look, you want to take a guy’s skill set, similar to my background as a high school coach, you want to make sure you put your guys in the best position to be successful and some guys do some things better than other guys. So, within that, we obviously have packages that match that. And they need to become experts at their position. And then, obviously, after that it goes to, how many positions can you execute. If you're able to play multiple positions, now your value just went up for the team and what you can do for the defense.”
 
On Kirby Smart not sweating the small stuff anymore…  
“Coach Smart’s extremely detailed. Maybe the most detailed and efficient man I've ever been around. Every day he reminds me not to waste a minute. So, I don't know if I'd say he's not sweating the details or not. I'll say this, the guy's detailed.” 
 
On Divaad Wilson’s return from an ACL injury… 
“Again, still early, but Divaad’s a really, really sharp football player; very smart, can adjust on the fly, understands the mechanics of the secondary, and can play multiple positions. He's one of those guys, we're talking about when you can do stuff with somebody, what can they do. He’s one of those guys that can play multiple positions. But he's very smooth in transition, He has a cover background. I think we're continuing to challenge him to continue to get more physical and run. And that's something I think that we're going to see here in the next few days of practice and the next few weeks leading up. Divaad’s a very sharp player that adjusts really well which is required for our defense.”
 
On freshman Tyrique Stevenson and his projection for the season…
“Tyrique Stevenson’s a playmaker and one of the things, you go back to talk about havoc, when you put guys out in the field, there's guys that do their assignments and then there's guys who create production. What we want are guys to do is both. Tyrique Stevenson is a guy that was extremely productive this Spring and as he continues to become more disciplined with his eyes and more disciplined with his play, he's going to be a guy that can do both for us and we're very excited to see the plays he can make. You go watch practice, you watch that guy for a little bit, you’re saying, ‘holy moly, we got a ballplayer,’ and that's what he is so we’ve got to do a good job of coaches and getting them ready to go out there and play.”
 
On talking with Kirby Smart about the ins and outs of being a defensive coordinator… 
“Not that much because guess what, when [Kirby] was the defensive coordinator, what did I do, I watched him and watched how he operated and I understand the requirements of the position. Getting to be here with Coach [Mel] Tucker, phenomenal football coach, for a year, getting to see how he operates as defensive coordinator. So, I understand what the position requires.”

 
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