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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Clark Lea talks path to ‘revolutionize’ Vanderbilt recruiting on 247Sports livestream

Clark Lea joined 247Sports’ National Signing Day Show on Feb. 3 and gave some insight into his recruiting philosophy and vision for the future.
Clark Lea and Candice Storey Lee pose upon Lea’s arrival to Nashville on Dec. 20, 2020. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea addressed his recruiting goals as well as his mentality when hiring his staff during an early morning appearance on 247Sports’ National Signing Day Show on Feb. 3. 

The first-year head coach said his first weeks on the job have been hectic, but his familiarity with Vanderbilt has made the transition much easier. 

“It’s a great honor, and though I’ve only been here as the head coach for a couple weeks, this is home and this is my alma mater,” Lea said. “So I’m very familiar with this program and this university and this city. In some ways, I’m learning a new role here—and that is, like you said, quite a process—but on the flip side of that, I’m very comfortable and excited to be here and honored to be on this show.”

Lea expressed confidence that the recruiting at Vanderbilt was going to fundamentally change under his watch. 

“We’ve been very deliberate in hiring this staff and trying to establish a scouting and recruiting office that can really revolutionize the way that Vanderbilt recruits,” Lea said. 

He specifically pointed to his hire of Barton Simmons, the former director of scouting for 247Sports, as general manager as a move that will propel the program’s recruiting moving forward. 

“I think his expertise and the time he spent in recruiting as an analyst and as a scout for 247 will serve us well,” Lea said of Simmons. “Obviously, he’s learning the ins and outs of recruiting in college football from the university perspective, too, but we’ve tried to kind of insulate that department so that really we’re making decisions in recruiting where we identify the raw material that we need to be successful. We want to field this program with NFL talent, and we know that we’ll have to be developmental in nature. That is a program ethos.” 

Lea also mentioned how his staff plans to use Vanderbilt’s status as a prestigious academic school in the SEC to their advantage. 

“Another important part at Vanderbilt is the fit, and we feel like in the league we’re an outlier, and I don’t see that as a disadvantage,” Lea said. “In fact, I think it’s the one thing that distinguishes us from everybody else. So how quickly we can identify the prospects that are shopping down our aisle, the guys that are looking for an environment where they don’t have to compromise on academics or athletics, that they can reach for heights in both areas. We feel like there’s an incredible opportunity to optimize this niche and to make it a strategic advantage for us.”

Additionally, Lea addressed his experiences filling out his staff and why he has felt that it’s in the program’s best interest for him to take his time throughout the process. Lea recently hired former Baltimore Ravens defensive backs coach Jesse Minter as defensive coordinator as well as Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach David Raih as offensive coordinator

“Filling those office spaces with competent and capable people who are going to build into a team vision, who are going to provide inspiration to a program and approach their work with enthusiasm and spirit every day—that’s been the challenge. That’s where I’ve tried to take as much time as I can to ensure that the future of this program, which depends upon the heartbeats of those men in those offices—and women—that the future of this program is in good hands,” Lea said. 

Finally, Lea offered some insight into his hope for the trajectory of his alma mater. 

“This has always been, to me, about a 20-year vision of sustained success,” Lea said. “This is something where I want this to be a job that’s a legacy job. This place is so important to me, and so important to so many of my former teammates, that to take the time on the front end to make sure the structure and the systems are in place, and then to be able to watch those structures and systems deliver the product that will allow us to reach the potential of the program—that’s what gets me up and gets me excited every single day.”


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About the Contributor
Alyssa Muir
Alyssa Muir, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Alyssa Muir ('21) was Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in economics with minors in business and sociology. When she has free time, she can usually be found binge-watching Grey's Anatomy or rooting on her hometown teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. For tips and comments, feel free to reach out to: [email protected].    
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