HOOVER, Ala. – Consider Clark Lea’s tenure at Vanderbilt a hard reboot.
The first-year Commodores head coach took the podium Wednesday at SEC Media Days, complete with the helmet he wore during his Vanderbilt playing days displayed on the table.
Vanderbilt went winless in 2020, leading to the firing of head coach Derek Mason. Lea, formerly the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, made it clear that everyone within his program is starting over. And he recognizes that it might take time to get everyone on the same page.
“The first objective is to redefine what it means to be a Vanderbilt football player, and specifically, we want to assign the value of membership in this tribe internally. We want to no longer allow for external influence to shape opinions about what we do and how we do it,” Lea said. “It's important in this point to recognize the fact that in this first iteration of Vanderbilt football … the overwhelming majority of players were recruited to a program that no longer exists. We are connected by chance, not so much by choice. So necessarily, there's a need for process to alignment.”
Lea was a running back at Vanderbilt from 2002-04; it was a three-year span where the Commodores won six games total. He isn’t putting the pressure of an estimated team win total on his team quite yet, but Lea’s of the belief that all the right things are in place for Vanderbilt to eventually become a winner.
Vanderbilt’s restart included a well-documented taking of jersey numbers and logos off the clothes of players and making them earn them back, according to junior defensive lineman Daevion Davis.
“We're starting from square one, whether that be in the weight room, on the field, mindset-wise,” sophomore offensive lineman Bradley Ashmore said. “We're doing everything the way we want to do it. Like I said, we've just been working on that all off-season, and we're working to perfect our mindset and perfect everything that we're doing with the goal of winning every time we step on the field.”
So far, Lea’s players are buying everything he’s selling.
“Sky’s the limit,” Davis said. “I think everything’s in front of us here.”