Dan Lanning is the best recruiter in the country

Dan Lanning is the best recruiter in the country

Dan Lanning and the company are currently the top recruiters in the country. Anyone who wants to look further into recruiting rankings will note that Oregon didn’t finish first in 2024, but the reality is that recruiting has three parts and no single ranking includes them all.

These three components are high school recruitment, transfer portal, and roster retention. Teams like Georgia and Clemson have chosen to focus primarily on high school recruiting, while teams like Ole Miss and Colorado have chosen to build their rosters more heavily through the portal. These are more extreme examples of recruiting at both ends of the recruiting spectrum, and most teams use both.

But Oregon does it best.

High school recruitment

Let’s start with the obvious recruiting rankings here and look at Lanning’s high school recruiting for the class of 2024. Oregon had a top 10 class among the three major recruiting services: Oregon ranked sixth Rivalsthird op 247 Sportsand fourth further To3.

Josh Conerly, Jr. is one of Lanning’s biggest high school recruits to date.
(Photo by Vasco Dixon)

Even in the age of the transfer portal, high school recruiting is the backbone of all of college football’s top programs. The fact is, the portal is filled with a lot of players, but not a ton of high-level talent, at least from top programs that aren’t undergoing a coaching change. Additionally, there isn’t a lot of quality offensive and defensive talent in the portal.

Between Mario Cristobal and Lanning, Oregon has dominated recruiting on the West Coast, especially when it comes to linemen. Perhaps the best example of how this methodology paid off is the Oregon-Colorado game last season. Oregon’s lines were purposefully built after years of pre-draft recruiting, with some key handoffs, while Colorado’s lines were built almost exclusively through the portal, and there was no question as to who owned the line of scrimmage.

There is no substitute for recruiting talent in high school.

Portal recruitment

We recently had some incredible news when former Michigan State Defensive Lineman Derrick Harmon announced he was moving to Oregon. As previously mentioned, quality linemen are a rarity in the transfer portal, and landing Harmon at Oregon is huge. He’s a huge frame, 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds, and was highly coveted by teams across the country, but he chose Lanning and the Ducks. Additionally, as of Sunday, the Ducks landed the coveted former safety in Alabama Peyton Woodyard also.

This isn’t the first lineman Lanning picked up from the portal this cycle either, when the Ducks landed Jamare Caldwell from Houston and Matthew Bedford from Nebraska.

Tez Johnson was a portal recruit in 2023 and made a huge impact at Oregon.
(Photo by Steven Chan)

Beyond the line of scrimmage, Lanning scored some big wins in the transfer portal this cycle by signing high-profile players such as: Jabbar Mohammed, Evan Stewart, Dante MooreAnd Dillon Gabriel. With Moore and Gabriel, Oregon landed its top two quarterbacks in the portal.

This all culminated in Oregon securing the transfer portal ranking of: No. 10 out RivalsNo. 2 out 247 Sportsand No. 5 of To3. This is another dominant showing from the Oregon Ducks in recruiting and shows how Lanning is using the portal to fill areas of need with high-quality talent.

Schedule retention

In the age of NIL and the transfer portal, there is one more factor to consider in recruitment: roster retention. Players are free to enter the portal and look for a new team, where they may see more playing time or receive a better payday. This means that a coaching staff can no longer take their current roster for granted and must continually recruit their own players. Especially their high-quality backups.

And unsurprisingly, Lanning has done just that, even though there are no rankings to quantify his success.

At the time of writing this article, 247 Sports, which seems to have the most updated list, has 20 players who transferred from Oregon. Of those 20, only nine players have made meaningful contributions at some point in their Oregon careers. Of these nine alone Trikweze Bridges And Kris Hutson have started games in their Oregon careers. Both have been surpassed on the depth chart. In Hutson’s case, he opted to sit out for the 2023 season to preserve his redshirt rather than play as a backup.

Charles Fischer had a great forum post Re Ben Roberts entering the portal, which initially felt like a blow to the Ducks, but in reality, Roberts was likely a third-string player.

Lanning isn’t losing the players he wants to keep on the roster, as there are only a handful of players transferred from Oregon that Lanning would have liked to keep. All other transfers free up space for new talent acquisitions to make the team better.

Trikweze Bridges vs. UCLA in 2022.
(Photo by Craig Strobeck)

Lanning is the best recruiter in the country

This culminates in Lanning being the best recruiter in the country. The most meaningful statistic in all of this is that Oregon is the only team to have both a top 10 high school recruiting class and a top 10 transfer portal class across all three major recruiting services. Ohio State, Texas and Alabama appear in two of the three for the transfer portal’s top 10, but only Oregon appears in all three.

Oregon’s NIL fans are one of the biggest keys to this success, and the Ducks have perhaps the best NIL fans in the country with Division Street. Division Street may not be throwing around as much money as other NIL collectives, but what is clear is that they know how to manage their resources. They don’t start bidding wars early in the recruiting cycle, which often results in Oregon “missing” targets earlier in the year but only showing up late in the cycle.

This gives Lanning the resources to look for key players in need in the transfer portal once the pre-signing period closes. Lanning also doesn’t chase every big name in the portal, but is selective with his needs and personality traits so he doesn’t waste Division Street’s resources chasing stars. This means the Ducks still have resources to go after some big names like Harmon in the spring.

They do all this while ensuring those on the roster get a fair deal on their own NIL. As fans, we don’t get a glimpse into the inner workings of any NIL collective’s activities, but we can see the results, and it’s clear that Division Street is doing a fantastic job.

In this era of recruiting, teams must continually address all three phases of recruiting to ensure they have the right talent on the field. No one is doing it better right now than Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks. Now it’s time to see these recruiting victories turn into a National Championship.

David Marsh
Portland, Ore
Top photo by Steven Chan

Andreas Müllerthe Volunteer editor for this article works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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