Spring Ball Underway

Vandy begins second season with head coach Clark Lea

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt began its spring practice early Wednesday on the fields outside the McGugin Center. The Commodores trained for two hours in a driving rain.

Second-year head coach Clark Lea had minimal thoughts of moving the session indoors.

“We play in these elements,” Lea said. “The challenge is welcome — as long as there is no lightning we’ll be out here playing.”

Vandy started its training before 8 a.m. in the first of 14 sessions leading into the April 16 spring game at Vanderbilt Stadium. Shortly after 10 a.m. the final whistle blew on the unofficial start of Lea’s second season.

With a bevy of new student-athletes on the roster and a host of new coaches and staff members on the sidelines, Lea enjoyed watching his veterans help hold the newcomers by the hand for a few hours Wednesday.

He also admitted that each day continues to be a chance for him to learn as well.

“I’m still learning and growing and getting better. I need to get better as a coach and I don’t know when that will stop, honestly. That’s going to be an ongoing process,” Lea said. “What’s fun is being out here with guys that you’ve built (relationships with), really through adversity, because nothing strengthens you like going through hard things together. It’s just fun to be on the field with our players. The staff that returned is eager and the staff that is new has stepped right in lock-step with what the program needs to be.

“It was fun to be out here. We had a good time, the kids had a good time and we’ll be excited to do it again Friday.”

The QBs Three

Vanderbilt has just three signal callers this spring: Mike Wright, Ken Seals and AJ Swann. 

Wright and Seals are back for their third season and Wright is the only quarterback fully healthy at the moment. Seals participated Wednesday but Lea said he is still slowly and cautiously making his way back from a 2021 injury. 

“(Wright) has stepped into a leadership role that we would expect from a quarterback. He’s taken ownership of that so we’re pleased with him, and yet there will be things that we need him to clean up in performance today but I know he was excited to be out on the field,” Lea said. “Those guys are doing a great job. Obviously we know that (Seals) brings leadership, too, and (Swann) is a young guy coming on. Pleased with that group and proud of the way (Wright) has handled himself through the offseason to earn his number.”

Swann, from Georgia, enrolled at Vanderbilt in January as a true freshman. A 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander, Swann was rated as a four-star prospect as a senior at Cherokee High School where he threw for nearly 7,000 yards in his high school career.

Vanderbilt signees Drew Dickey and Walter Taylor are expected to join the spring quarterback trio later this summer.

“In December I was able to throw with him before he even got on campus. He can really sling it,” Vandy tight end Ben Bresnahan said of Swann. “He’s getting the ropes now, getting adjusted as, obviously, an early enrollee so it’s a big adjustment but he’s doing great with it being able to pick up on the offense quick.”

Howell You Doing?

The Vandy defense will be under the guidance of first-year defensive coordinator Nick Howell in 2022.

Howell joined the staff in January after six seasons at the University of Virginia. He has coached in 12 bowl games throughout his career at both Virginia and Brigham Young and was promoted to defensive coordinator earlier this month.

“It’s no real switch, really,” Vanderbilt linebacker Anfernee Orji said. “It’s mostly the same playbook, we’re going to make a few adjustments and play ball – the same thing we’ve been doing.

“This spring we kind of know what to expect. We know it’s high intensity, total effort. We know what to expect so we’re just going to come out here and play all-out every snap. We know the plays, we know everything, there’s no guessing. We just have to go out and do it.”

Carta-Samuels Visits

Former Vanderbilt quarter Austyn Carta-Samuels attended Wednesday’s practice.

Carta-Samuels played for the Commodores from 2011-13 and was a team captain as a senior in leading Vandy to the Compass Bowl. Carta-Samuels totaled 2,383 yards of total offense during his time as a Commodore.

Having recently spent five seasons on the coaching staff at Missouri, Carta-Samuels is planning on playing professional football starting in April in Germany.

— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.