Press Conference Notes: Clark Lea reflects on a win, previews Florida

After his team’s second win of the season over UConn on Saturday, head coach Clark Lea discussed an upcoming trip to Gainesville to battle No. 20 Florida.


Mattigan Kelly

Vanderbilt running back Rocko Griffin runs the ball against UConn on Oct. 2. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

Justin Hershey, Sports Editor

After a nail-biting, last-second victory over Connecticut this past weekend, head coach Clark Lea and the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-3, 0-1) have returned to practice ahead of a matchup with the No. 20 Florida Gators (3-2, 1-2) this coming Saturday. Lea spoke with the media on Tuesday, acknowledging the boost in morale the 30-28 win provided his group in the team’s final nonconference game.

“[Sheppard] has found a level of production that has helped us win a couple of games, and we’ve got to keep with that rhythm because obviously there’s a chemistry developing there that’s going to be beneficial to us,” Lea said. “So I’m proud of Will. I’m proud of the distance he has covered to this point. But I’m excited about where we can get with him through to the end of the season.”

Going on the road for the first time in the SEC is no doubt a big challenge, but its even amplified when going up against a talented Florida offense led by quarterback Emory Jones. The junior signal-caller has led the Gators to over 25 points in all but one game this season and is fifth in the SEC in total rushing yards with 439.

“The quarterback makes it go,” Lea said. “I think anytime you start running the quarterback, it’s about teaching defensively who has responsibility for him as a runner. You start to split guys between perimeter screens and playing the outside after the quarterback. It takes alignment discipline, key discipline, post-snap footwork. There’s a fundamental technical approach to this that gives you the best chance to close the space.”

Limiting chunk plays and gaining chunk plays of their own will be paramount for Vanderbilt this weekend. With a couple more days of practice leading into this difficult contest, Lea and his team will continue to focus on Vanderbilt and what it can control on its own sideline.

“We’ll spend our time in practice this week preparing our plan to limit their explosive ability. Kentucky was able to do a good job of that at times, and we need to do the same,” Lea said. “So our guys will be excited for that. It’ll be a good week of prep and a good challenge on Saturday.”

The Commodores will travel to Gainesville later this week to battle the No. 20 Florida Gators at 11 a.m. CDT this Saturday.