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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 gives perspective on Tennessee matchup, offensive struggles

Head coach Clark Lea shared his thoughts with the media ahead of Vanderbilt’s final game of the season.
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Vanderbilt will look to win their third game of the season on Saturday. (Hustler Multimedia/Chloe Pryor)

In his final in-season press conference, Vanderbilt head coach addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of his team’s final game of the season against No. 21 Tennessee. After winning two conference games last season, Saturday marks the last opportunity for the Commodores to win an SEC matchup in 2023. 

Lea began on Tuesday by addressing Vanderbilt’s quarterback situation. After starting the season with AJ Swann, both Ken Seals and Walter Taylor have received playing time at quarterback for the Commodores amidst heavy offensive struggles. Heading into Saturday, the Commodores rank last in the SEC in points per game.

“I can’t answer that in a direct way,” Lea said when asked about Vanderbilt’s starter against Tennessee. “Offensively, we’re fighting to find a formula, and have not been pleased with how we’ve played on that side of the ball. As far as who that will be, we’re going to let the week play out and see who gives us the best chance to move the ball.” 

Following a disappointing blowout at the hands of South Carolina in their last game, Lea spoke about the importance of using the bye week to refocus ahead of the team’s final matchup. The Commodores are searching for their first win following a bye week under Lea. 

“We were disappointed in the way the South Carolina game finished,” Lea said. “I felt like the bye week was a good chance for us to purge that from our system and reset our focus on having a great finish.”

Looking ahead to the Volunteers, the Commodores’ defense will have their hands full with one of the SEC’s best scoring offenses. Heading into Saturday, Tennessee averages 438 yards and 30 points per game offensively, led by QB Joe Milton III (16 TD, 5 INT) and RB Jaylen Wright (938 yards, 4 TD). 

“You have to be able to handle their tempo, first,” Lea said. “If not, they are going to quickly get the ball into space to their playmakers. The second thing for us would be stopping the run. This was an area that we really struggled with against them last year, so we’ve spent time on the details there and how to make progress.”

To finish the press conference, Lea spoke on fighting the notion of culture regression after a disappointing third season. Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the Commodores will fall well short of their five-win season in 2022. 

“What I didn’t see on the film, in any of the phases, was an absence of effort,” Lea said. “When you’re short of results, it’s hard for everyone. As a leader, what I have to guide and create is an environment where when we pass through adversity, we’re galvanized.”

In terms of injuries, Lea noted that DB Martel Hight, DB Marlen Sewell, OL Leyton Nelson and DB Savion Riley are questionable for Saturday’s matchup. Lea also announced that DL Yilanan Ouattara had a season-ending procedure that will hold him out on Saturday. 

Vanderbilt will take on Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, Nov. 25.

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About the Contributor
Anish Mago, Deputy Sports Editor
Anish Mago ('24) is from West Windsor, N.J., and is studying economics and political science in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the Sports section. When not writing for The Hustler, Anish enjoys playing basketball and rooting for all Philly sports. He can be reached at .
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