Press Conference Notes: AJ Swann to miss Kentucky game, Lea gives personnel and injury updates

Clark Lea provided an update on the Dan Jackson situation, discussed his team’s loss to South Carolina and looked ahead to Kentucky.

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Arianna Santiago

The Commodores anchor down during kickoff, as captured on Nov. 5, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)

Bryce Smith, Sports Editor

Clark Lea addressed the media on the afternoon of Nov. 8 during his weekly scheduled press conference ahead of his team’s matchup against Kentucky on Nov. 12. The head coach discussed takeaways from Vanderbilt’s 37-28 loss to South Carolina last Saturday, Nov. 5, provided injury and personnel updates and previewed the Kentucky Wildcats.

The second-year coach reflected on his team’s shortcomings against the Gamecocks on Saturday, but added that he “feels really good about the heartbeat and the spirit of of this group” and is excited for the final stretch of the season. The Commodores turned the ball over four times in the loss to South Carolina.

“We have to play football better, and that includes offensively not turning the ball over and capitalizing on opportunities. We had opportunities against South Carolina to convert on third downs. We had some shot plays,” Lea said. “We gotta capitalize on those opportunities defensively, leverage and tackling on the perimeter.”

The Commodores will travel to Lexington, Kentucky, to face off against Mark Stoops and the Wildcats in Week 11. Led by quarterback Will Levis, Kentucky has already reached bowl eligibility this season, sitting at 6-3 (3-3) coming into the contest.

“This is a good team, Kentucky is,” Lea said. “They have modeled the building of a program with a very similar start to what we’ve experienced, and coach Stoops has done a great job through consistency and going through a process of building a program that has become one of the best in the league. They win consistently. They compete. They’re good in all three phases. Certainly we’re gonna have a tough task ahead but excited for the opportunity to compete with them.”

Vanderbilt will be without freshman quarterback AJ Swann, who has started each of the last six games, against Kentucky after he suffered an injury that sidelined him midway through the South Carolina game.

“He’ll be OK—just not available this weekend,” Lea added. “So we’ll keep tabs on him, and hopefully we’ll be able to get him back for the Florida game, but time will tell.”

QB AJ Swann looks toward the bench, as captured on Nov. 5, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago)
QB AJ Swann looks toward the bench, as captured on Nov. 5, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Arianna Santiago) (Arianna Santiago)

Mike Wright, who started the Commodores’ first three games of the season, will step in under center on Saturday. Lea added that junior Ken Seals is in line to backup Wright.

“First of all, I think he [Wright] has just handled this season really well. Obviously he serves as a captain for a reason, and he has been consistent in his approach and not let personal disappointment bleed into his ability to be a great teammate,” Lea said. “He has also prepared himself to be ready when his number is called. I think in both of the last two games, he has been able to come in and make some plays and move the offense. Certainly against South Carolina, we unfortunately turned the ball over there late, but I thought he had some some bright moments there. He’s a guy that has been a play maker for us. We’re excited for him to have the opportunity to lead us on the road in the SEC.”

Lea also provided injury updates on offensive linemen Bradley Ashmore (out for the season) and Xavier Castillo (week-to-week, will miss Kentucky game) as well as defensive lineman Daevion Davis (questionable).

Lea commented on the recently suspended Dan Jackson, Vanderbilt’s defensive backs coach who came under fire for his comments supporting Ye. Jackson has been asked to “step back” from his responsibilities with the football program while the situation is reviewed by the Equal Opportunity and Access Office.

“As the chancellor [Daniel Diermeier] and (athletic director) Candice [Lee] have noted in their statements, Dan has agreed to step away for the moment as we undergo an internal review through the Equal Opportunity and Access Office,” Lea said. “This is a part of the university’s process for addressing reports of discrimination, and they’re gonna conduct a thorough review to fully understand the context and provide clarity for the university’s path forward. Candice and Dan agreed it was best for him to step away right now so he can focus his full attention on the review and hopefully resolving this matter.”

Defensive coordinator Nick Howell will take over as the defensive backs coach for the time being, Lea noted. Howell “coached corners” at the University of Virginia in his previous stint as the defensive coordinator for the Cavaliers.

Vanderbilt and Kentucky will kick off at 11 a.m. CST on Saturday, Nov. 12 in Lexington, Kentucky.