Dores Spring Eternal

Commodores start training, second season under Clark Lea

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt football team begins spring practice at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Second-year head coach Clark Lea sat down with on Tuesday to discuss his expectations for the Commodores before the first of 14 workouts leading into the April 16 spring game at Vanderbilt Stadium: — How will spring practice differ in your second season compared to your first?

Clark Lea — “There is, obviously, anticipated advancement on so many levels. A year ago we were still getting to know each other so it’s hard to focus on a collective identity when we don’t have an individual identity. Year 2 is about deepening our understanding of who we are and how we win.

“And specifically it’s no longer a focus on what we’re doing but how we do it. We have a clear awareness of what winter training is, what spring ball is, what summer is, what fall will be. Rather than wondering what the schedule will be it’s how we’re filling that schedule, how we’re doing what we’re doing that’s on a level of both the schedule and what practice looks like, but also the execution of the schemes – offense, defense and special teams.”

How much will the returning student-athletes, coaches and staff help set the expectation level in Season 2?

“Learning is about the aggregate of experience. We have a good group of veteran players who are totally bought-in to what we’re doing who will advance the learning of the younger parts of our team that will expedite our team identity.”

How do you expect your new assistant coaches and staff members to get assimilated to Vanderbilt football?

“The good thing is a lot of the new ones I have direct connection with. There’s already a familiarity and we haven’t had to spend a lot of time getting to know each other. What has been most important is the rapid development of relationship. True relationships take time, but the immersion of these guys into our team, the connection with our players and the style and the spirit of the coaching has expedited that process.

“Now we get to take that to the practice field which is really where the player-coach relationship is developed. The meeting room is one thing, but actually coaching through competitive segments is where once you’re in the fire together where the bonds are really formed.”

Will you approach your second spring practices any differently than you did your first?

“I’ll be more involved in certain segments. I’ve been more involved with the defense here over the last couple of months. That will continue.

“I will still try to keep a big-picture approach to practice, but will definitely look to insert myself into any areas where the team gets to know my competitive personality, too.”

Where would you like to see your team by the time the spring game rolls around?

“We have to deepen our connection to being a total-effort team. I want to see our effort level more in line with the vision of the program. I thought we made strides in the fall that way, but through the winter my hope is that we’ve advanced that and through the spring we will advance it.

“I want to see fundamental, technical, tactical development. I want to see the style of play, the physical finishing blocks, playing on edges and leveraging plays better on defense, finishing plays better on offense but a physical style of play, a fundamental and technical style of play, a structured style of play that really comes to surface.

“I want them to leave with better chemistry. If we play with great effort, that’s going to solve a lot of issues. If we have great fundamental, technical structured play, that will solve a lot of issues. Now you’re playing 11 guys as one. Now you have a chance each snap. If we can develop chemistry within this program then we have the ability to anticipate on the field.

“Performant is about co-creation. If I’m anticipating, I’m going to beat the ball to a spot. A defense can’t outrun the football so a quarterback and receiver know exactly what needs to happen and there’s an ability to get the ball into space. If an offensive lineman understands what a pressure looks like and can make a call in the communication, then the other four guys on the line of scrimmage are able to execute at a high level.

“That chemistry is going to be crucial to us winning tight games in the fall.”

New Number, Who is This?

As was the case in 2021, the Commodores will have to earn their respective jersey number for the 2022 season.

Seventeen student-athletes have already earned their numbers ahead of Wednesday’s practice due to their hard work during winter training. Moving forward, the team’s player-appointed leadership council will pick 10 players each Friday who deserve the right to choose their number for the upcoming season.

Those student-athletes who have not secured their official number for 2022 will be wearing rental numbers in the meantime. Offensive players will be wearing white jerseys with their earned numbers in black while defensive players will be wearing black jerseys with earned numbers in white this spring

Every other Commodore will have a gray, rented number and numerals will be earned all the way throughout the team’s spring game as well in the few weeks following the annual event.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for
Follow him @MrChadBishop.