Clark Lea's quarterback decision makes Mike Wright the face of Vanderbilt football
In 2021, even when Vanderbilt football came in with an established, returning quarterback, first-year coach Clark Lea refused to name a starter until the week before the season opener.
In 2022, with seemingly far more uncertainty around the role, Lea named Mike Wright the starter at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
Both Wright and backup Ken Seals started at various times in 2021 and both struggled in different ways. Seals was prone to interceptions, while Wright was able to make plays in the running game but was not always an accurate passer. The decision was likely partially rooted in scheme. Seals, a traditional pocket passer, struggled behind the Commodores' thin offensive line, while Wright was better equipped to handle those shortcomings.
Still, Wright has long been seen as a team leader, as indicated by Lea's decision to make him one of the three players selected to be in Atlanta.
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And Lea's decision make him the starter more or less made Wright, a magnetic personality who frequently cheers on other Vanderbilt teams as well, the face of a program that desperately needs one.
"It means a lot," Wright said. "There's a level of trust there. For him to choose me ... that's the kind of trust he has in me to be able to represent our team and our organization back home. For me, the level of work doesn't change as far as my mentality, the approach I bring to the game, the level of preparation, none of that changes. No matter if I'm the guy, the one, two, three or four. I'm going to give it everything I've got. That's the identity of our quarterback room."
Wright still has room to improve as a passer, and Lea acknowledged as much. But at the most important position on the field, perhaps entering the fall with defined roles will allow Wright to gain confidence while still encouraging competition. Seals' decision to not transfer means Wright will still need to hold him off, along with promising true freshman AJ Swann.
"A year ago, it was Ken that had the job and ... (Wright's) persistence through that frustration, those moments are formative. It's adversity that he had to fight through. ... He's got the personality to really connect and drive the team forward. So we're glad to have him in that role."
Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @aria_gerson.