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 prepares for Ole Miss, recaps bye week

Clark Lea met with the media on Tuesday to recap the bye week and discuss the Ole Miss game.
Arianna Santiago
Jaylen Mahoney and Jeremy Lucien celebrate after making a tackle against Wake Forest. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

On Saturday, Vanderbilt will play at FirstBank Stadium for the first time since being trampled by No. 23 Wake Forest on Sep. 11. The Commodores will return to action for the first time in 14 days since they lost to Alabama 55-3. Clark Lea addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon to recap the bye week and preview Vanderbilt’s clash with No. 9 Ole Miss.

Before analyzing the strong Ole Miss team, Lea recapped the Alabama game. Although Lea was disappointed with the loss, he spoke on the potential silver linings in the lopsided defeat to the Crimson Tide. 

“Those are painful experiences,” Lea said about the loss to Alabama, “It’s our responsibility to pull up above the emotions and to understand how we were responsible in that result…It’s important that we live in [the loss] for 24 hours, then we get right back on the climb towards the vision and mission of the program.”

After talking about the Alabama game and the bye week, Lea focused on Ole Miss. Vanderbilt’s schedule is as tough as it gets but Lea remains eager for the opportunity to compete against the highest level of competition in college football. 

“We expect to get a tough opponent [Ole Miss] and have a tough challenge on Saturday,” Lea. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to prepare to play at our highest level. I love where we are [and] love where we’re headed and we’re excited about this weekend.”

One of the outstanding characteristics of this Ole Miss team is their coaching staff and nationally renowned Lane Kiffin. Kiffin, a Nick Saban disciple, has built a reputation as one of the most aggressive coaches in the FBS, routinely playing four-down football. Lea is ready to adjust accordingly to the Rebels’ offensive tactics.

“We will have to make changes defensively because maybe certain field positions, let’s say at the 39, where you might normally run out your pass rush or your more exotic third down designs, but instead you may stay more committed to the playbook.” Lea said about preparing for those fourth down plays, “It does challenge you in that way, but we’ll have our strategies in place for that.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Lea expects to stay committed to the gameplan and not react too much to the fourth-down aggression on the opposing sideline. Through five games, the Rebels are 5-for-8 on fourth down attempts.

“Offensively, the opponents’ four-down tendencies don’t impact the way you approach the call.” Lea said, “That is determined, so you stay committed to the plan, and there will be moments that we may choose to go for it on fourth down on our end, but those decisions are unique to our strategy.”

Lea then announced the status of several Commodores who did not play in Vanderbilt’s loss to Alabama. Many student-athletes recovering from injuries are expected to play against Ole Miss–including starters Jaylen Mahoney, Ben Cox and Quincy Skinner [Jr.]–thanks to having an extra week to recover with the bye week. 

“The bye week was good to us. We’re excited to get these guys back again mentally and physically,” Lea said.

Even though freshman quarterback AJ Swann only passed for 115 yards against Alabama, he will remain the starting quarterback for the Commodores. Swann may lead the offense as the QB1, but Joey Lynch is working on ways to get Mike Wright in the game. Wright did not see the field much against Alabama but featuring him in goal-line quarterback sneaks, flea flickers or as a decoy could confuse the Ole Miss defense. 

“Well, I don’t know that I’d be a good coach if I went into too much depth,” Lea said about finding ways to feature Wright in the Ole Miss gameplan. “Mike is one of the best 11 he just happens to play a position where it’s a little bit more challenging to rotate. I don’t see it as a rotational role. I see it as a role that would be more situationally driven.”

The Commodores will look to upset the nation by upsetting this Ole Miss team and beating the Rebels for the first time since 2018. Lea and the Commodores hope to put on a strong showing against the Rebels this Saturday on Reunion Weekend

“What we want to do is put on a great performance in our home state. We haven’t yet done that this season.” Lea said. “We’re excited to get back home and it’s nice to play a home game. We’ll have to carry that energy to the field for sure.”

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About the Contributors
Andrew Wilf
Andrew Wilf, Former 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].
Noah Roslin, Former Staff Writer
Noah Roslin ('26) is planning to double major in human and organizational development and economics in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can usually find Noah at the hockey rink, at the tennis courts or at home looking for new Soundcloud remixes.
Arianna Santiago
Arianna Santiago, Senior Staff Photographer
Arianna Santiago ('24) is from Bremerton, Wash., and studying electrical and computer engineering in the School of Engineering. When not shooting for The Hustler or for freelance work, Arianna can be found leading campus tours, organizing events for University Catholic, attempting to study and procrastinating her lab reports. You can reach her at [email protected].
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