After firing Derek Mason earlier this month, Vanderbilt didn’t waste any time zeroing in on his replacement.
According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea is expected to be the next head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores. Lea is only 38 years old but has served as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator since 2018.
His defenses have ranked among the best in the nation in each of his three years at the position. The Fighting Irish finished 13th in 2018, 12th in 2019, and are currently 12th in 2020.
Perhaps more importantly, Lea has strong ties to Vanderbilt University and the city of Nashville. He played fullback at Vanderbilt from 2002 to 2004 and is a Nashville native.
Sources: Clark Lea expected to be the next coach at Vanderbilt. He's been identified as the target of the search and a deal is expected soon. https://t.co/UGtaFWX43N
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 14, 2020
But Clark Lea will have a monumental task ahead of him in restoring the program to what James Franklin made it just seven years ago.
The team hired Derek Mason after Franklin left in 2014, and in the first five years the Commodores went 24-38, making two bowl games in the process. But Mason couldn’t build off his success in 2016 and 2018, going 3-17 over the past two years before getting the axe.
Vanderbilt have almost always been the SEC East cellar-dweller, but the school clearly wants the program to be much more competitive than they’ve been the past two years.
Clark Lea is a respected name in coaching and will likely get significant time to rebuild the program. But it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot more sweat to return Vanderbilt to respectability.
Did Vanderbilt make the right hire with Clark Lea?