The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

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.

Press Conference Notes: Lea previews Alabama, highlights Swann’s excellent performance against NIU

Head Coach Clark Lea addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for Vanderbilt’s matchup with Alabama.
Ray+Davis+and+Bradley+Ashmore+preparing+for+their+battle+against+NIU+%28Vanderbilt+Athletics%29.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Ray Davis and Bradley Ashmore preparing for their battle against NIU (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Three days after Vanderbilt’s come-from-behind victory over Northern Illinois, Clark Lea addressed the media. He spoke about what went well in freshman quarterback AJ Swann’s first collegiate start.

Many predicted Swann to have a chance at winning the starting job, but not this early in the season. Swann made the most of his start, throwing for 255 yards and four touchdowns. The Georgia native put on a show, earning SEC Freshman player of the week on Monday

“There’s no stage too big. I mean he’s shown it from the day he set foot on campus,” Lea said. “He’s going to learn a lot and he’s going to have to grow a lot…I’m excited for him. I know he’s excited to be the starting quarterback here.”

Although it is important for Vanderbilt to celebrate their 38-28 victory over NIU, the Commodores need to shift their focus to No. 2 Alabama. On Saturday, the Commodores will clash with Alabama for the first time since 2017 when they lost 59-0. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban has won seven national championships and 10 SEC champions.

“Coach Saban obviously has risen to the top of our profession, and for good reason. He does a great job. He runs a discipline program that recruits well and develops well,” Lea said. “Now that we work in the conference together, we’re acquaintances and see each other at the meetings and such. But a ton of respect there for him, and I enjoy listening to him talk about the game.”

Saturday’s matchup with the Crimson Tide will be Vanderbilt’s first SEC game of the season. From here on out, Vanderbilt will play only SEC games, but Lea remains excited about the opportunity to compete despite the high level of competition. The last time the Commodores won a conference game was in 2019.

“We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves on Saturday. But I think we have a competitive team that has a belief in what we’re building, and we know that ultimately this program wants to measure up against the best in the country,” Lea said. “We’re looking forward to it more than anything…This is an opportunity for growth for us. So we’re attacking it head-on and excited for it.”

Lea also gave injury reports on several Vanderbilt student-athletes, including Trudell Berry and Patrick Smith who are scheduled to suit up this weekend. Last season, Smith rushed for 358 yards and a touchdown on 81 carries.  

“They’re available to play, and we’re excited to have them back,” Lea said “It’s about putting them back in ways that will help our team and energize our team and where we see areas for improvement. We’re gonna count on those guys.”

Vanderbilt enters their matchup with Alabama as heavy underdogs. Alabama’s Bryce Young is highly considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football and Lea will try his best to confuse Young on Saturday evening.

“He’s obviously very well-regarded and well-respected for a reason,” Lea said about Young.  “We have to do a great job in collapsing the pocket…We have to be disciplined in coverage down the field too because as a down extends, we can’t get our eyes back and try to find where he is. We have to stay on our man and stay in coverage to make sure that we’re eliminating the windows for him to throw the ball.”

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About the Contributor
Andrew Wilf, Sports Editor
Andrew Wilf (’24) is Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. He is from Livingston, N.J., and is majoring in history and minoring in business. He joined the sports staff his freshman year, previously serving as a Staff Writer, Assistant Sports Editor and Deputy Sports Editor. Beyond writing for The Hustler, he is also the host of Anchor Analysis, Commodore Clash and Live From West End. In his free time, Andrew enjoys watching the NFL and playing golf. He can be reached at [email protected].
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