Clark Lea // Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator
- HOMETOWN: Nashville, TN
- YEARS AT NOTRE DAME: 2017-present
- ALMA MATER: Vanderbilt
Clark Lea is set to begin his third season as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s linebacker coach and his second as the squad’s defensive coordinator. During his collegiate playing days, he walked on at Vanderbilt in 2002 and played three seasons of football for the Commodores after competing in baseball at two other schools.
A Steady Climb
Lea’s coaching career began as a grad assistant at UCLA before he then spent two seasons as linebackers coach at South Dakota State. He then returned to UCLA in 2009 to tutor the Bruin linebacking corps for three seasons. After that stint, he moved on for one season at Bowling Green in 2012.
While Lea spent just one year with the Falcons, he did connect with former Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko. That partnership would work well as Bowling Green finished the 2012 campaign ranked among the top 10 teams in the country for both scoring defense and total defense.
Lea would move in to serve as linebackers coach at Syracuse for three seasons before then reuniting with Elko at Wake Forest in 2016. During that lone season with the Demon Deacons, Lea was part of a defensive coaching staff that ranked among the college football elite in scoring defense, turnovers forced and sacks.
An Irish Move
Such accomplishments put both coaches on Brian Kelly’s radar, with Lea being hired at linebackers coach on January 12, 2017. During that first season, the emergence of the quartet of Nyles Morgan, Te’von Coney, Drue Tranquill and Greer Martini provided a huge boost to the improved Notre Dame defense.
When Elko made a lateral move to coach at Texas A&M, Lea took on the additional duties of defensive coordinator for the Irish on January 9, 2018. What followed was an undefeated regular season that saw the Irish hold eight teams to 17 points or less. When the season ended, Notre Dame ranked 13th in the country in the category of points allowed per game.
(Photo: © Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)