Editor’s note: Second in a series of articles examining each of the Pac-12 football teams heading into the 2022 season.

After spending much of the 2021 season ranked in the top 10, Oregon was humiliated by Utah twice, including in the Pac-12 championship game.

Then, coach Mario Cristobal left Eugene to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Miami. 

To replace him, Oregon hired Dan Lanning, who was the defensive coordinator with last year’s national champion, Georgia. The Bulldogs boasted the nation’s No. 1 defense under Lanning. 

As fate would have it, Lanning’s first game as the Ducks’ head coach will be against Georgia. 

For now, Lanning has been working on building a culture. 

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“When I got here, we spent our time focusing on connection. If we want to be an elite team, we have to be tight,” he said. “There has to be a brotherhood. That doesn’t happen unless you spend time on it.”

Offensively, Oregon must fill the void of losing running backs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell. At quarterback, the competition is between Auburn transfer Bo Nix and redshirt freshman Ty Thompson. 

Lanning used to game-plan for Nix in the SEC. Now, he’s coaching Nix. 

“Bo’s really what I thought he was. He’s an extreme competitor, super smart, he works really hard at it, and I think he’s really intentional,” Lanning said. “I think he would tell you he has a lot of things he can get better at, and I certainly agree. There’s a lot of things that he can improve on, but he’s attacking those every day. I’m pleased to see that.”

Much is expected of receiver Troy Franklin and running back Byron Cardwell this season.

On the defensive side of the ball, can Lanning assemble a dominating defense at Oregon? The Ducks have lost key defensive players, including defensive end and first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, and three starters in the secondary. 

Star linebacker Noah Sewell, an Orem High product, returns to anchor the Ducks’ defense. 

“He’s got great size, and he moves like a cat. Guys that big typically don’t move that well,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of Sewell. “But he’s outstanding. His lateral movement and quickness. He’s instinctive. He’s a big-play guy, always seems to be around the ball. Always. What you look for in a middle linebacker, he embodies. He’s got the whole package.”

2021 record: 10-4 (7-2 Pac-12).

Utah ties

LB Noah Sewell (Orem HS)

LB Jeffrey Bassa (Kearns HS)

LB Harrison Taggart (Corner Canyon HS)

DL Sam Taimani (East HS)

DL/OL Jackson Powers-Johnson (Corner Canyon HS)

2022 schedule

Sept. 3 Georgia (Atlanta)

Sept. 10 Eastern Michigan

Sept. 17 BYU

Sept. 24 @ Washington State

Oct. 1 Stanford

Oct. 8 @ Arizona 

Oct. 22 UCLA

Oct. 29 @ California

Nov. 5 @ Colorado 

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Nov. 12 Washington

Nov. 19 Utah

Nov. 26 @ Oregon State

Next up: Oregon State

First-year Oregon coach Dan Lanning, right, talks with Brad Holmes, left, Detroit Lions executive vice president and general manager, during Oregon’s NFL football Pro Day, Friday, April 1, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Lanning was previously the defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs, which won the national championship in 2022. | Andy Nelson, Associated Press
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