Oregon head coach Dan Lanning leads practice Aug. 17, 2022, in Eugene Oregon.

Dan Lanning guides No. 11 Oregon vs. old friends at No. 3 Georgia

First-year Oregon coach Dan Lanning said he might wait until shortly before Saturday’s game to announce his starting quarterback for the No. 11 Ducks’ showdown against No. 3 Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.

Perhaps it’s just a bit of gamesmanship between Lanning and his former boss, Georgia coach Kirby Smart. Lanning spent the previous four seasons on Smart’s staff — the past three as co-defensive coordinator — and helped the Bulldogs win the national title last season.

The Ducks are expected to start transfer Bo Nix, a three-year starter at Auburn, over redshirt freshman Ty Thompson at quarterback.

“That really doesn’t impact anything for us,” Smart said. “I know who the quarterback is going to be. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried a lot more about how our guys play and what our guys do and how our guys execute.”

Lanning acknowledged it’ll be a bit strange facing his former employer in his head coaching debut.

“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.”

The Bulldogs lost a record 15 players from their championship team to the NFL draft — including five first-rounders from the defense that was led by co-coordinators Lanning and Glenn Schumann. They also had 13 players transfer.

Figuring that two heads are better than one, Smart has turned the defense — which allowed a modern-record 6.9 points per game in the regular season — over to Schumann and former South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, who already was on the staff as the special teams coordinator.

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs again will be led by former walk-on Stetson Bennett, the offensive MVP of the 33-18 victory against Alabama in the national championship game last season.

“We’re on top of the world, but we’re going to see the world here in a few weeks,” Bennett told Sports Illustrated earlier this month. “Better be ready.”

The Ducks have had to cope with the offseason death of popular tight end Spencer Webb, who suffered a fall at a lake. Oregon players will wear a decal on their helmets with his No. 4 inside a spider’s web.

“Our team has a void. It’s something you cannot replace,” Lanning said. “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.”

Like the Bulldogs, Oregon has plenty of newcomers on its roster, as Lanning utilized the transfer portal to bring in Power 5 talent such as Nix and running back Mar’Keise Irving.

Lanning downplayed any advantage he might have of knowing Georgia’s defensive system — as well as the Smart vs. Lanning story line.

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

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2020; Athens, Georgia, USA;  A general view of the stadium prior to the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2023 S Joenel Aguero commits to Georgia

Joenel Aguero, a top safety in the Class of 2023, announced Saturday he will play his college football at Georgia.

The Massachusetts native is the No. 3-ranked safety and No. 34 overall player in the class, per the 247Sports composite.

The 6-foot Aguero made official visits last month to Georgia, Miami and Florida, but he still has a big official visit on his calendar: late November at Ohio State for the Michigan game.

Aguero played his junior season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., but he is returning to St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass. — where he started his career — for his final season.

The defending national champion Bulldogs showed him how much he was wanted, Aguero told On3.

“I’ve been a priority. To be honest, I already knew that,” he said. “From the head coach all the way down to the equipment manager, it’s everybody just showing me love. It just felt right to be honest.

“The players even told me like, ‘Listen, you’re a priority to these coaches. They wanted to get you. … They want you.’ And then, I’ve just seen the way they treat. When I come down there, they show all love. It’s all love from everybody.”

With his commitment, Georgia moved to No. 3 in the 247Sports ranking for best 2023 class, trailing Ohio State and Notre Dame.

–Field Level Media

Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks with the media on the first day of spring practice in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 15, 2022.

News Joshua L Jones

Georgia coach Kirby Smith nearly resigned 13 months ago

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he nearly resigned 13 months ago due to the challenges of finding a healthy work/life balance.

Speaking Tuesday at the Texas High School Coaches Association convention in San Antonio, Smart said the non-stop recruiting workload during the COVID-19 pandemic pushed him to the brink.

“I told the staff, ‘We’re going to take every Monday off, because we’re working every Friday, Saturday, Sunday,’” Smart said. “So last June — the coming out of COVID June — I was ready to step down and resign. I was done. I was done.”

Seven months later, Georgia beat Alabama 33-18 in the College Football Playoff title game for the Bulldogs’ first national title since the 1980 season.

Smart, 46, revealed how close he came to offering his resignation after being asked if a healthy work/life balance even exists in college football.

“No,” Smart said, according to The Athletic. “I have tried hard to take the calendar — and I take my staff, my most tenured coaches, whether it’s Dell McGee, Glenn Schumann — and I say, ‘Hey guys, I want y’all to come work together, to look at this calendar for the coaches, the work schedule and I want you to give me some ideas of where we can steal some time (off). First off, familiars are always welcome at our office, they can come to our practices. I got coaches’ kids who come out to the practice and do the drills with the coach because I’m like, ‘You won’t get to be around your son otherwise.’

“So if he wants to come to practice, he can come to practice any time he wants. He can be a part of anything as long as he’s not in the way or a distraction. I want our families, I want our wives to bring their kids out there at the end of practice. Because our players need to see that.”

Smart said college football is losing good coaches to the NFL because they can spend a lot more time off with their families.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach looks on during the final minute of the game as Auburn Tigers take on Mississippi State Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated Auburn Tigers 43-34.

Reports: Mississippi State extends Mike Leach through 2025

Mississippi State and its head football coach, Mike Leach, agreed to a two-year contract extension on Tuesday according to multiple reports.

The extension reportedly will keep Leach in Starkville, Miss. through the 2025 season and raise his annual salary to $5.5 million.

Leach, 61, is entering his third season at the helm of the Bulldogs. They went 4-7 in his first season — the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign — and 7-6 last season. In both seasons, Mississippi State went to bowl games, winning the Armed Forces Bowl in 2020 and losing the Liberty Bowl in 2021.

Mississippi State is the third stop for Leach as a head coach. He won 84 games — and never had a losing season — in 10 years at Texas Tech. After a few years away from coaching, he was hired at Washington State in 2012 and went 55-47 in eight seasons, guiding the Cougars to a 2-4 record in bowl games.

Leach was an understudy of Hal Mumme and helped popularize his pass-heavy “Air Raid” offensive attack.

Will Rogers returns as the Bulldogs quarterback this season after finishing second in the SEC in passing yards (4,739) and passing touchdowns (36) last year.

Mississippi State opens its 2022 season at home against Memphis on Sept. 3.

–Field Level Media

Georgia football linebacker Adam Anderson attends his bond hearing regarding his felony rape charge at the Athens-Clarke County courthouse on Wednesday, Nov. 17. 2021.

News Kayla Renie

Ex-Georgia LB Adam Anderson indicted on rape charge

A grand jury indicted former Georgia linebacker Adam Anderson on Tuesday and charged him with rape.

Anderson will be arraigned June 13. His lawyer said in a statement given to ESPN that he plans to plead not guilty.

The senior from Rome, Ga., was arrested on Nov. 10 and released on bond a week later after being accused of raping a 21-year-old woman in a house in Athens, Ga., on Oct. 29.

According to the police report, a 21-year-old woman went to a house in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, had some drinks and later awoke to find Anderson raping her. She reported the alleged incident to police later that day, the same day Anderson and the Bulldogs left Athens to head to Jacksonville, Fla., where they played Florida on Oct. 30.

Anderson played against the Gators, but the team suspended him the following week once the allegations came to light.

ESPN reported that a second woman also accused Anderson of sexual assault in October 2020, but he hasn’t been charged in that case.

Prior to the allegation, Anderson was viewed as a potential first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by ESPN and CBS Sports.

–Field Level Media

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) kisses the trophy after winning the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 10 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

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Stetson Bennett’s brother to walk on at Georgia

Stetson Bennett IV went from a walk-on at Georgia to a national championship winner.

His younger brother, Luke, hopes to do the same.

Luke Bennett announced Thursday that he’s walking on at Georgia, committing to the Class of 2022.

He posted to Twitter: “Excited to officially be a part of the @ugafootballwalkons family #committedtotheg #GoDawgs”

He is a 5-foot-11, 175-pound wide receiver/running back who played at Pierce County High School in Blackshear, Ga. He had three receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in his senior season, per 247Sports.

In February, the Bulldogs coaching staff offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on.

Stetson Bennett joined Georgia as a walk-on in 2017, then transferred to a community college for the 2018 season. He returned to Georgia in 2019 and last season, led the Bulldogs to victory in the College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama.

The quarterback is using his added year of eligibility and returning for the 2022 season, and he seemed excited Thursday to have his brother as a teammate.

“So proud of you buddy – LETS GO!!!,” Stetson Bennett tweeted.

–Field Level Media

Georgia offensive line coach Matt Luke on the sideline during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Alabama in Atlanta, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

News Joshua L Jones

Matt Luke steps down from Georgia coaching staff

Georgia associate head coach and offensive line coach Matt Luke announced his resignation on Monday.

Luke joined Kirby Smart’s staff before the 2020 season. He replaced Sam Pittman, who became the head coach at Arkansas.

“I have decided to step away from coaching and shift my focus to spending more time with my family,” Luke said in a statement. “I want to thank Coach (Kirby) Smart, his wife Mary Beth, and the entire Georgia family for an incredible past two seasons. I also appreciate Coach Smart’s support in my decision today. He’s a great coach, and I’ll always cherish his friendship.”

The 45-year-old Luke was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2017-19, fired after a 4-8 record in his third season. Overall, he had a 15-21 record at his alma mater.

Prior to becoming the head coach of the Rebels, Luke was their offensive line coach and associate head coach, and he also held positions at Duke, Tennessee and Murray State.

Georgia won the College Football Playoff following the 2021 season, defeating Alabama 33-18.

“(Luke) has been an invaluable part of our staff and played a great role in helping us win a National Championship,” Smart said in a statement. “We are so appreciative of everything he has done for Georgia Football. Matt, Ashley, and his children have been, and will continue to be, an important part of the Bulldog family and Athens community. We’re working on finding a coach that will continue to develop our young men and build our strong foundation with the offensive line.”

Spring practice for the Bulldogs is slated to begin on March 15.

–Field Level Media

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs tight end Brock Bowers (19) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Georgia TE Brock Bowers has shoulder surgery

Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is recovering from shoulder surgery, multiple outlets reported Monday.

The rising sophomore had a procedure to repair a torn labrum and will miss spring workouts. He is expected to be back on the field this summer, per the reports.

Bowers caught 56 passes for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman for the 2021 national champions. He led the Bulldogs in all three receiving categories.

The Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year dealt with the injury during the latter part of the season.

“Yeah, he has had a shoulder for a couple weeks,” coach Kirby Smart said after the College Football Playoff semifinal win against Michigan. “We’ve had him practicing in a black jersey limiting his contact some. But he’s a tough dude, man. He’s a warrior.”

Bowers played in the Jan. 10 national title game against Alabama and caught a 15-yard touchdown with 3:33 remaining, giving Georgia a 26-18 lead en route to a 33-18 win.

–Field Level Media

Jan 10, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) throws a pass against Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99) during the second quarter in the 2022 CFP college football national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Stetson Bennett rallies No. 3 Georgia past No. 1 Alabama for CFP title

Stetson Bennett tossed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and Kelee Ringo clinched the win with an interception return for touchdown as No. 3 Georgia recorded a 33-18 victory over No. 1 Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game on Monday night at Indianapolis.

Bennett’s 40-yard scoring pass to Adonai Mitchell with 8:09 remaining put Georgia ahead to stay, and the Bulldogs (14-1) piled on to win their first national title since the Herschel Walker-led team captured the 1980 crown.

Bennett threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Brock Bowers to make it 26-18 with 3:33 remaining before Ringo picked off a pass from Alabama’s Bryce Young and returned it 79 yards for another score with 54 seconds remaining.

Zamir White ran for a touchdown and Bennett completed 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards as the Bulldogs avenged a 41-24 loss to Alabama in last month’s Southeastern Conference title game.

Young, the Heisman Trophy winner, finished 35 of 57 for 369 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for Alabama (13-2). Cameron Latu caught the touchdown pass among his five grabs for 102 yards, and Will Reichard kicked four field goals.

Crimson Tide star wideout Jameson Williams had four receptions for 65 yards in the first 17 1/2 minutes before leaving for good due to a left knee injury.

Alabama outgained the Bulldogs 399 yards to 364.

This was the second time in five seasons that these teams met in the CFP championship game. Alabama defeated Georgia 26-23 in overtime in the 2016-17 final.

The Bulldogs led 13-12 in the fourth quarter when Alabama’s Christian Harris pressured Bennett and forced him to fumble, with a review upholding the call. The Crimson Tide’s Brian Branch recovered the ball just before going out of bounds at the Bulldogs’ 16-yard line with 11:35 left in the game.

Four plays later, Young hit Latu for a 3-yard scoring pass to give Alabama a five-point lead with 10:14 remaining. The ensuing two-point conversion pass by Young failed.

Georgia moved back ahead just more than two minutes later when Bennett connected on the strike to Mitchell. James Cook’s two-point conversion run was stuffed, and the Bulldogs led 19-18.

The Crimson Tide were on top 9-6 in the third quarter when Reichard’s 48-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Georgia’s Jalen Carter with 3:18 left.

Georgia took advantage as Cook broke free on the next play for a 67-yard run to the Crimson Tide 13. Three plays later, White scored from the 1 to give the Bulldogs a 13-9 advantage with 1:20 remaining in the quarter.

Alabama reached the Georgia 3 on its next drive but settled for Reichard’s 21-yard field goal with 12:59 left in the game.

The teams combined for five first-half field goals — three by Reichard, two by Georgia’s Jack Podlesny — and Alabama held a 9-6 lead at the break.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart gestures in the fourth quarter against the Michigan Wolverines during the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Four-star OL Earnest Greene commits to Georgia

Earnest Greene, a four-star offensive lineman from Bellflower, Calif., committed Saturday to play at Georgia next season.

Greene, ranked as the second-best player at his position and the 40th player overall in the Class of 2022 by the 247Sports composite, chose the Bulldogs over Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Texas.

“I’ve liked Georgia from the beginning. I have a good relationship with coach Smart and coach Luke, and they’ve got a really good recruiting class coming in,” Greene told 247Sports in reference to head coach Kirby Smart and Matt Luke, the team’s associate head coach and offensive line coach.

“I like their style of play and fit in really well with what they do,” added Greene, who played at powerhouse St. John Bosco High School.

Georgia (13-1) will play Alabama (13-1) in the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday night in Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media