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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 discusses Swann, defense and Missouri

Vanderbilt Football head coach Clark Lea discussed quarterback AJ Swann’s status, the Commodores’ turnover rate and what needs to be done against Missouri in his Tuesday press conference.
Chloe Pryor
AJ Swann and Quincy Skinner Jr. looking at the sideline on Sept. 23, 2023 (Hustler Multimedia/Chloe Pryor).

In his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Vanderbilt Football head coach Clark Lea reviewed aspects of Vanderbilt’s 45-28 defeat to Kentucky and previewed his team’s upcoming matchup against Missouri. Lea also assessed the status of struggling quarterback AJ Swann, discussed the team’s turnover issues and commented on the hiring of deputy athletic director Derek Grice.

Lea opened the press conference with several injury updates. Swann is practicing on a “pitch count” and is questionable for Saturday. Defensive lineman Christian James is questionable as well. Safeties Savion Riley and De’Rickey Wright are questionable, while Jaylen Mahoney is probable after practicing Tuesday. Cornerback Trudell Berry did not practice Tuesday and is questionable. Finally, BJ Anderson practiced on a player load and is probable.

The main topic of questioning posed to Lea was Swann’s recent performances under center and his health. The sophomore was listed as Vanderbilt’s QB1 on the depth chart for Missouri. Swann has played the last two games with an elbow contusion injury.

“It’s just a balance between continuing to play through it versus giving it a chance to rest and recover,” Lea said. “We need to play better at quarterback, period. Whoever’s in there needs to run the offense better and make better decisions with the ball. The burden of that position is that the game on that side of the ball runs through the quarterback. We want to be mindful of the fact that AJ’s been battling through this elbow and we want to see that he’s ready to continue. And if he’s not, we want to give the offense a chance to run through a healthy player so that we can perform better offensively.”

When discussing the Commodores’ upcoming game against Missouri, Lea focused on the Tigers’ star wide receiver Luther Burden III.

“We’re going to have to be hyper-aware of where No. 3 [Burden III] is,” Lea said. “They design to get him open. It’s those four guys back there 一 the corners and safeties 一 working together to make sure we have leverage and we’re on top of the routes that they want to get on top of us.”

Lea also discussed Vanderbilt’s turnover struggles. The Commodores have thrown 7 interceptions and lost 4 fumbles in their first five games, allowing a total of 37 points off turnovers.

“On Saturday, we saw some carelessness with the football that we’ve been talking about for weeks now,” Lea said. “You want to look at it and say we’re really disappointed to be 2-3, but it could be worse. And it’s all about how we play with the football. It’s about the decisions we make.”

In other notes, Lea commented on the hiring of Grice as deputy athletic director, which was announced Tuesday morning.

“I’m so excited,” Lea said. “Obviously he brings a wealth of experience and has done unbelievable things at San Diego State.”

Lea also addressed the possibility of a future game between Vanderbilt and Memphis, which Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield had pitched as an idea for a neutral-site game at Nissan Stadium.

“Sounds like a great idea to me. We could make it the ‘Barbecue Bowl’ and settle that once and for all,” Lea joked. “I have not spent a lot of time focusing on the schedules of the future. My energy’s being directed towards the efforts we’re making right now…But I love the idea of playing at Nissan and I love the idea of playing Memphis.”

Vanderbilt will look to break its three-game losing skid on Saturday, Sept. 30 against Missouri at 3 p.m. CDT at FirstBank Stadium.

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About the Contributors
Frankie Sheehy, Deputy Sports Editor
Frankie Sheehy ('24) writes for The Hustler Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science with majors in economics and law, history and society. He's also the president of the Vanderbilt Chess Club and a superfan of the Chicago White Sox. You can reach him at [email protected].
Chloe Pryor, Staff Writer and Photographer
Chloe Pryor (‘26) is from Fort Smith, Ark., and is double majoring in psychology and communications studies. When not writing for The Hustler, you can fund her reading, drawing or running late for class. You can reach her at [email protected].
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