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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: Clark Lea on Seals’ performance, finding positives and overcoming adversity

Vanderbilt’s head coach Clark Lea discusses the quarterback controversy, positive developments and many areas for improvement following a loss to Missouri in his weekly press conference.
Miguel Beristain
Will Sheppard goes up for a grab against Florida on Nov. 19, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain).

On Tuesday, head coach Clark Lea met with the media to provide injury updates, insight into the QB controversy and a look ahead to this week’s matchup against Florida. Lea didn’t shy away from Vanderbilt’s recent struggles, citing many opportunities for improvement. However, despite a 17 point loss to Missouri, Lea shared some positive developments that he has seen in the program. 

Beginning with an injury report, Lea shared that Jaylen Mahoney, Grayson Morgan, BJ Anderson and breakout wide receiver London Humpries are listed as questionable for this week. Lea added that linebacker Kane Patterson will be out this week, but remained optimistic that Patterson should return later this season. Most notably, Lea stated that quarterback AJ Swann is listed as probable. The quarterback controversy is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and Swann’s injury designation only adds fuel to the fire. 

Lea spent much of today’s presser discussing the quarterback situation. After Swann started the first five games, an elbow injury put him on the sideline for Saturday’s matchup against Missouri. Enter Seals, an experienced senior with intangible leadership qualities. In a rather impressive outing, Seals threw for 259 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But something felt different in this loss, and evidently, Lea felt it too. 

“I do think we found some spirit offensively, I liked the attitude we played with,” Lea said. “I’m really proud of him [Ken Seals]. I thought the performance was gutsy and confident…He didn’t flinch, he didn’t back down… He’s really come to connection with who he is internally…It seemed like there was some chemistry developed around the quarterback position on Saturday which was encouraging. There’s a lot he can do to build on that performance and we will be excited to support him as he seeks that opportunity again this week”

As football coaches often do, Lea left the door open for who will start Saturday against Florida, but all signs point to Seals getting his second start of the season. 

“We’re day by day here, and obviously, we know that we have two guys that are capable of doing it,” Lea said. “We’re always going to be first paying attention to AJ’s health, and then through the week of practice, just make a decision on what we feel like is best for the team… It makes no sense for me to make that decision on Tuesday.”

Aside from Seals’ performance, Lea touched on other positives he saw this Saturday including younger players stepping up and offensive explosion. 

“There’s flashes of signs of encouraging things from young players in our program,” Lea said “I thought at times some of the quick strikes and counter punching in the second half on offense are signals of an explosive offense that includes the ability to get the ball down the field throwing it.”

Through Lea’s lens, he found many progressions in the team, but did not fail to acknowledge his team’s struggles and poor performance halfway through the season. 

“Overall we’re obviously not happy with where we are, but we need to stay encouraged,” Lea said.

As a whole, Lea was disappointed and cited specific reasons for some of the struggles in the Missouri game.

“The telling stat of the day for me was third downs,” Lea said.  “If we can trade touchdowns for field goals on those third downs, I think you’re going to come away feeling a lot better about how tight that game is late.”

Lea hopes to find improvements in the team’s shortcomings this week heading into “The Swamp,” Florida’s rowdy stadium. He spoke about managing the difficulties of crowd noise.

“So much of playing in a loud environment is about chemistry, the chemistry that’s built before the noise is introduced,” Lea said.

Vanderbilt hopes to find its first SEC win of the season in Gainesville as they battle an impressive Florida team on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. CDT.

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About the Contributors
Zach Philip
Zach Philip, Staff Writer
Zach Philip (‘26) is majoring in computer science and economics in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of school, he enjoys watching golf and football (go Jaguars!). He can be reached at [email protected].
Miguel Beristain
Miguel Beristain, Senior Staff Photographer
Miguel Beristain (’24) is a philosophy and cellular and molecular biology double major in the College of Arts and Science from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When not shooting for The Hustler, he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, exploring new restaurants or practicing guitar. He can be reached at .
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