Press Conference Notes: Clark Lea provides more recruiting updates

On Tuesday morning, Clark Lea spoke to the media and addressed his recruiting efforts as well as the team’s first practice in pads.


Vanderbilt Football during 2021 spring practice. (Twitter/@VandyFootball)

Alyssa Muir, Deputy Sports Editor

A day after Vanderbilt secured its first three commits in the 2022 class, Clark Lea provided more insight into his recruiting philosophy when he met with the media on Tuesday.

One of the three commits, highly-touted Langston Patterson, is a Nashville product, and Lea specifically addressed his excitement about continuing to build the program’s local recruiting pipeline.

“There are a lot of really talented football players within a five-hour radius of this campus,” Lea said. “And I think early on we can separate ourselves because of the access families will have to their sons as a part of this program…There are enough people within a five-hour radius that we should be able to field a really competitive team and that’s what makes recruiting local so appealing.”

Lea also detailed how he views Vanderbilt’s high academic standards as a benefit in recruiting rather than a burden.

“That’s a point of celebration for me, not a point of frustration,” he said. “I think it gives us a chance to recruit a certain type of young person that is high-reaching, high-achieving in all areas. That is exciting to me.”

He then went on to explain his vision for these specific types of players once they leave Vanderbilt’s campus.

“What Vanderbilt becomes, in my vision, is the breeding grounds for the future leadership of our country,” Lea said. “This is a program that’s gonna be dealing with players that will certainly go on to have NFL careers, but also equally as important, will go on to take leadership positions in our community and business industries.”

On the topic of recruiting, Lea again spoke highly of Barton Simmons, the program’s general manager. Simmons currently oversees recruiting as a whole, looking at the total package of each recruit—their on-field performance in addition to their character fit with the program.

“He’s an incredibly skilled evaluator; he’s got a great perspective on the landscape of college football, and he’s an outside-the-box thinker,” Lea said of Simmons. “For me, in that role, I needed someone who understood the unique aspects of being at Vanderbilt and the advantages that we can compound over time to create separation for this program and someone who had the discipline and the patience to see these processes through.”

Finally, Lea provided a brief update on the team’s on-field progress. With about a week of spring practices now under their belt, the Commodores took the field in pads today for the first time. And while Lea was optimistic about the direction of his team, he acknowledged that they have a long way to go as both a team and a program.

“We looked like it was our first day in pads today,” he said. “We’re still trying to clean up a lot of our operation. We have to evolve. We have to evolve as a team; we have to evolve as a program…We do have a ways to go.”