At the end of the 2022 season, Oregon Duck fans felt pretty good about their first-year head coach Dan Lanning. He had won 10 games in his first year leading the program and walked away with a victory in the Holiday Bowl over North Carolina to go along with a top-10 ranked recruiting class.
However, losses to both Oregon State and Washington stuck out like a sore thumb. There was a belief that the future should be bright in Eugene, but success against the rivals was going to need to be paramount going forward.
After the 2023 season, I think Duck fans are feeling pretty spectacular about Lanning, now their second-year head coach. A 12-win season landed the Ducks in a New Year’s Six Bowl, and a Heisman-caliber season from QB Bo Nix had the team in the national title conversation all year long. They fell short to a rival — Washington — twice but managed to beat every other team in their path. To add to the good feelings, Lanning punctuated the season with another top-10 recruiting class, and one of the best transfer portal classes in the nation, not to mention his public denial of the Alabama Crimson Tide coaching job, giving Duck fans the one thing they truly desire more than almost anything else: Loyalty.
So while Oregon feels good about their head coach, how is he being publicly? As they do every year, CBS Sports broke down the second-year head coaches and offered a grade for their tenures so far. More than just Lanning, let’s take a look at the grades and analysis for other notable figures like Mario Cristobal, Lincoln Riley, Joe Moorhead, and a few others.
2023 Record: 12-2
Overall Record: 22-5
CBS Sports Grade: B+
“Of the four Pac-12 schools heading to the Big Ten, none look in better shape to compete immediately than Lanning’s Oregon program. The Ducks are coming off a 12-2 season where their only two losses were close calls against the Washington team that reached the CFP National Championship game, and they’ve gone 22-5 in his first two seasons. That optimism could fade if the Ducks fail to “get over the hump” again in 2024, though.”
Our Thoughts: Dan Lanning hasn’t delivered the elusive national championship trophy to Eugene, but he’s done just about as well as you could expect during his first two years with the Ducks. The 0-3 record against Washington is tough to swallow, but Oregon seems primed and ready to compete in a new era of college football, starting this next year in an expanded Big Ten Conference.
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
2023 Record: 7-6
Overall Record: 12-13
CBS Sports Grade: D+
“The good news is Miami didn’t lose to Middle Tennessee this year. The bad news is it only went 7-6 and is 12-13 in two seasons under Cristobal, including a 6-10 record in the ACC. That’s not why he was hired. However, the Canes are doing well on the recruiting trail and will be considered one of the favorites in the conference next year. That sets up one of the greatest rivalries in college football: Miami vs. Expectations.”
Our Thoughts: Did anyone project that Mario Cristobal would be sub-500 after his first two years at Miami? I’m not sure I expected that. While Cristobal’s recruiting has remained elite, the in-game coaching decisions that caused hair to be pulled out all over Eugene have followed down to Coral Gables. Another year like the last two and we may see Cristobal on the hot seat at his alma mater.
Photo Courtesy of Ethan Landa
2023 Record: 8-5
Overall Record: 19-8
CBS Sports Grade: D
“USC entered the season as the Pac-12 favorite behind reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams and the Trojans were viewed as a national title contender. They finished 8-5 as Williams regressed and the defense put on a weekly exhibition of how not to tackle or cover receivers. Now, USC enters a new era in the Big Ten with many more questions than answers, evidenced by Riley completely (and belatedly) overhauling his defensive staff.”
Our Thoughts: USC was good, but not great with Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams. Now I’m very curious to see how they look without him. Lincoln Riley is a great offensive mind, but until he can figure out the defensive side of the ball, it may be more disappointment going forward.
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2023 Record: 14-1
Overall Record: 25-3
CBS Sports Grade: A+
“DeBoer became the second member of this class to reach the title game. Sonny Dykes did it with TCU last year, and DeBoer’s Huskies earned a trip this year. Neither won, but this is the easiest grade in the class by miles. DeBoer did so well in two seasons that he was chosen as the successor to Nick Saban at Alabama.”
Our Thoughts: It’s impossible to nitpick DeBoer at this point after he reached the national title game in his second year at Washington. It allowed him to jump ship when the getting was good, as well, with him now becoming another first-year head coach, this time with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Good luck living up to the expectations left behind by Nick Saban.
2023 Record: 2-10
Overall Record: 4-20
CBS Sports Grade: D
“There are few gigs in the country tougher than Akron, and Joe Moorhead has first-hand knowledge of how difficult it can be after another 2-10 season with the Zips. He’ll get a third season, but I can’t imagine he’ll see a fourth if things don’t drastically improve.”
Our Thoughts: It’s been some tough sledding for Moorhead ever since he left Eugene, which goes along with what recent history would have told us. After back-to-back 2-10 seasons with the Zips, Moorhead is firmly planted on the hot seat going into 2024.
Syndication Reno Gazette Journal
2023 Record: 2-10
Overall Record: 4-20
CBS Sports Grade: F
“Nevada is not an easy place to win, and Ken Wilson didn’t win while in charge. He was fired after another 2-10 season in 2023, though he did manage to pick up two conference wins this year.”
Our Thoughts: Ken Wilson also struggled to find success away from Oregon, getting fired after his second year at Nevada with another 2-10 season. The grass is, in fact, not always greener.