Backing Black

Vandy d-line honing its craft under new assistant coach

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Larry Black saw that Clark Lea was on the other end of a phone call, he knew a special opportunity may lie ahead.

“As soon as he called me about this gig it was a no-brainer,” Black told reporters Tuesday. “Coach Lea was someone that I looked up to as a young coach on that Notre Dame staff and was someone that led by example, did it the right way and he continues to do it the right way.

“That’s a guy I want to work under and be around because I know it’s always coming from his heart – and then he’s just a great person.”

Black was a young graduate assistant with the Fighting Irish in 2018 and was part of a Notre Dame team that went 12-0 before losing to Clemson in the College Football Playoff. Lea, at the time, was that team’s defensive coordinator.

Now Black has come to Nashville to join Lea and to help mold the Vandy defensive front alongside defensive ends coach Jovan Haye. Black spent the last three seasons at Toledo.

“I am excited for Larry to be joining our program as the defensive line coach,” Lea said at the time of Black’s hiring. “I have seen firsthand the impact Larry has through the relationships he develops. He is a skilled technician, but also a coach that cares deeply for his players. He is a great fit for our program and will be a tremendous mentor to our student-athletes.”

Black has his work cut out for him this spring when surveying the Vanderbilt defensive front. There are only a baker’s dozen defensive lineman on Vandy’s roster and key contributors like Daeveion Davis and Nate Clifton are still making their way back from injury.

Malik Langham, Christian James, Devin Lee, Tyler Bence, converted offensive lineman Kevo Wesley and veterans Elijah McAllister and Michael Owusu are a few of the d-linemen who have stood out thus far for Black.

“I’m excited about those guys. I think they have a ton of potential and they’re all working to take those steps to get better,” Black said. “I’ve been impressed with all the guys, but a lot of work to do, though. They’ll know that because I tell them that, but very excited about the effort those guys are showing.”

Vanderbilt signed a handful of defensive linemen as part of 2022 class and their arrival in the summer will help bolster some depth ahead of the Aug. 27 opener at Hawaii. Until then, the current Commodores are continuing to hone their craft and learn a new scheme under defensive coordinator Nick Howell, Black and the rest of the defensive coaching staff.

“The thing I like most about this system is the guys around me,” McAllister said. “We’re a collective unit, all 11 guys flying to the ball each series. It’s showing up in practice and that’s what will show up in the game.”

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.