EbeneMagazine – US – Lea looks to come out with a bang in the last game (s) as Irish Defensive Coordinator // The Observer


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Every sports fan loves a safe trip home. Maybe he’s coming back to the same place you once ran the playing field, like Lebron James did in 2014 when he made his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For others, it’s about returning to a place that lifted you up as an adult, like Dwyane Wade’s second stint in Miami.

Growing up in Nashville, Tenn. , Lea attended Montgomery Bell Academy where he was named to the 1999 All-State team for his role as a full-back helping his school win the Division II Class 2A championship. After graduating in 2000, Lea moved south to play baseball at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala. , winning a NAIA championship in freshman year. He would transfer to Belmont in his sophomore to continue his diamond career, but Lea returned to Music City as a junior and spent her last two qualifying seasons at Vanderbilt, playing fullback under the head coach Bobby Johnson ..

Sixteen years and seven coaching stops later, Lea finds herself back at Vanderbilt Stadium on her first assignment as head coach, but not before trying to quell No’s dynamic offense. 1 Alabama in the college football playoff semifinals this Friday.

“Obviously, with an opponent like Alabama… every part of my mental and emotional energy has to be put into this game plan,” Lea said.

For Lea, this ability to focus on the task at hand is driven in part by his own investment and the connection he has established with his players.

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“I know it might be hard to believe, but it’s too big. I mean, anything coming up for me will be here when this season is over, ”he said. “But for me this is the culmination of four years of investment. And it’s not just about me, obviously. It is four years of investment with these players. ”

That said, balancing the demands of two programs at the same time is no easy task. In the days following Vanderbilt’s announcement of Lea as the next head coach, questions have arisen regarding the transition phase, with Notre Dame within days of her first Conference Championship appearance. The loss 34-10 vs. Clemson didn’t do much to appease those skeptics. According to Lea, this game was less about lack of focus and more about lack of identity. He said that sometimes it felt like the players were trying to take responsibility for the defense on their own, rather than operating as a unit.

“I think what I want to emphasize is that when guys are functioning as one of the 11 it streamlines their processing in the blink of an eye,” he said. “So I think, obviously focusing on execution, focusing on being one of the 11, focusing on fast and physical play, getting to our technique faster than the opponent is part of it. ”

Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea instructs the players in training this season. Since taking office as defensive coordinator, Léa Notre-Dame’s teams have yielded more than 17 points just 17 times – and they have given up only 18. 2 points per game – in 37 games over the last three seasons .

Lea joined the Irish as a linebacker coach in 2017, following Wake Forest’s Mike Elko. However, when Elko took on the role of defensive coordinator at Texas A&M the following year, Lea took the lead in filling her mentor’s shoes, now in her third season at the helm of defense.

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He has helped lead the Irish to a 43-7 record over the past four seasons and has coached several NFL stars including Troy Pride Jr. and All-American Julian Love. As his time as a coordinator at Notre Dame comes to an end, he reflected on the development of some of his current players. He spoke about the players’ willingness to be coached as an integral part of their development, citing Butkus Prize winner and US first team linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

Owusu-Koramoah made just two appearances in his first two seasons heading into a junior breakout season. Now a senior, Lea said her development off the pitch as a student and leader has catalyzed her development on the pitch.

“I think as he’s really thrived on this campus it absolutely transferred to his performance on the pitch,” Lea said. “And so it allowed him to reach his potential as a player. And I still think we keep pushing to achieve that highest level for him. I am excited about what his future holds for him. I can’t wait for him to play on Friday. I know this is a big game for him, and he’s ready to jump in and compete at his top level. ”

Despite a talented defensive unit, Lea knows he will have his hands full against this attack from Alabama which has two Heisman finalists and a dynamic running back who would likely be considered without the competition on his own team. Lea said that as a manager great players are made of great moments and that he will have to rely on some of these key players like Owusu-Koramoah.

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“When you watch great games like this, you need your best players to come out and play their best,” Lea said. “And I know that’s what we’re pushing him for. And that’s Coach Kelly’s message, and it’ll be fun to watch. ”

Fun to watch. When the camera pans over Lea, it can be hard to believe he’s having fun. The stoic look he offers when analyzing defensive adjustments can be misleading, especially under a mask, but Lea insists that coaching is just that – fun.

“Each year you have time to study during the offseason and you are looking at new and creative ways to change the way we diagnose, to change the way we recognize training. … And that’s what makes it fun, ”he said. “That’s what makes it such an exciting job, it’s as a teacher, there is no concept set in stone. It can be set in stone for a year, but someone somewhere is going to find a way to shatter that concept and you’re going to have to adapt it to stay relevant. ”

Phone: (574) 631-7471 / Fax: (574) 631-6927 / Address: The Observer / PO Box 779 / Notre Dame, IN 46556 Email: [email protected]

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football, Alabama Crimson Tide football, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, college football, American football, defensive coordinator, head coach

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