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Clark Lea firmly believes a turnaround for Vanderbilt football is on the horizon. That’s good news, considering Lea is Vanderbilt’s coach.
Lea, 38, is not only entering his first season as coach of the Commodores, he is in his first season as a head coach anywhere.
For the previous three seasons, he served as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. Long before that, he was a fullback at Vanderbilt. And he’s applying some of the lessons he learned back then today.
For instance, the Commodores started 4-0 in Lea’s senior season, but they then finished 5-6. That’s the type of late-season fade he aims to avoid as coach.
“Those challenges are what drove me into coaching,” he said, via CBS Sports. “How do we get this to where no one else has to experience this level of disappointment?”
Of course, the team has a ways to go. Vanderbilt is coming off an 0-9 finish — both overall and in the SEC.
Perhaps that’s why the Commodores aren’t given numbers on their jerseys at spring practice. They have to earn them.
“We’re going to earn everything in this program,” Lea said. “We [must] understand we rent those numbers; we don’t own them.”
Odds are against a quick about-face, considering Vanderbilt competes in a conference that includes traditional powers such as Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, LSU … and oh yeah, national champion Alabama.
But Lea is banking on the man he knows best.
“Ultimately, I’ve got to do what’s right for me,” he said. “I’ve got to bet on myself.”