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“There’s no better program in the country than Vanderbilt football”

Clark Lea addresses SEC Media Days, and we recap.

Syndication: Tuscaloosa News Gary Cosby Jr. via Imagn Content Services, LLC

We recap Clark Lea’s remarks at his first SEC Media Days:

  • One of the most interesting aspects of his transition is watching Commissioner Sankey coordinate the conference.
  • It’s not lost on him all the work put in to get to this semblance of normalcy today. To be on the cusp of a college football season with SEC stadiums filled is a celebration.
  • Thanks Chancellor Diermeier and Candice Lee. This is a dream for any coach.
  • Has two players with him, Daevion Davis and Bradley Ashmore. Both were early to buy in and embrace the change in our program. (Ed. note: Both also got jersey numbers this week.)
  • Had a conversation with Vanderbilt football alum and Texans coach David Culley on Tuesday.
  • As a new coach, you dream of guys who are “willing to take the plunge with you.” Guys who take your vision, hold it true, and carry it to the team.
  • We have the opportunity to completely redesign an environment. Two objectives: redefine what it means to be a Vanderbilt football player, assigning the value of membership in this tribe internally and no longer allow for external influence to shape what we do, and build the best team in the country. We call this “Team One.” The overwhelming majority of players were recruited to a program that no longer exists. There’s a need for process to alignment.
  • Being a team isn’t about the accumulation of talent, but about what each team member is willing to do for the next.
  • (Ed. note: Clark Lea uses a lot of big words, and also has exactly the voice I would expect to come out of that guy.)
  • He wants guys to have self-confidence based on a sense of belonging, and preparation to performance can reach the desired outcomes.
  • “There are no cheat codes to winning; you simply can’t hack your way to sustained success.” I present you Will Wade.
  • “What do you think would constitute a successful season and how much do you focus on the win-loss record?” Clark Lea dodges this question. (Ed. note: this is the smart thing to do here. The team is probably not going to be very good, so you don’t want to put an expectation on it, but you also don’t want to pretend like wins and losses don’t matter.)
  • Asked about the “outside-the-box” hire of Barton Simmons. (Ed. note: it’s only outside the box because you didn’t know you could hire the guy running 247 Sports.) Lea answers that he didn’t want someone who would take a “cookie-cutter” approach based on how they did things at a different school. Barton is a friend of his, he’s incredibly smart, thinks on his feet.
  • What do you remember about your time at Vandy (as a player)? “There’s no better program in the country than Vanderbilt football.” Lea says that the three years he played there were the three toughest years of his career. Watched Bobby Johnson methodically build the program into a bowl team in 2008. Knows the intricacies of the program. It’s about seizing the opportunity to build something different.
  • Somebody from the Bryan/College Station Eagle asks him about Mike Elko. “How much time do we have?” Lea calls Elko the smartest college football coach he knows.
  • Can you describe the evolution of recruiting talent in the state of Tennessee? “A lot’s changed since I was in high school.” Level of football has improved and population base has gotten bigger. We have to do a great job of being first in our backyard. Not everybody is going to be a fit for us. I want this to be a football decision for recruits, and it will be, because we’ll have the best developmental program in the country.
  • What are the conversations you’re having about boosting the offense? “We haven’t paid a lot of attention to what we were,” focus is on what we will be. Using matchups, formations, tempo to create pressure on the defense and matchups favorable to us. As a former defensive coordinator life gets pretty miserable in modern college football, but now get to step back and get involved on that side of the ball. Ultimately we know what gives us problems and designing around that gives us perspective on offense.
  • What do you have to do to rebuild the program from the ground up? This isn’t the first program facing a rebuild or restructing, what is unique to us is the history our players have experienced in the program. Challenge of holding people to different standards and expectations is real. We can’t be afraid to be drastically different.
  • Somebody asks him about the Vandy United fund. “It certainly has an impact and I think it will continue to have an impact” on recruiting.
  • Question about NIL. Lea says that being in the biggest city in the conference is a huge opportunity.
  • Gentry Estes asks him about the helmet. “A football player’s helmet is, next to kids, one of the most important things we keep with us.” Lea says he’s kept it with him on a bookshelf. Physical representation of what he invested here, and it’s now in his office.