Why Clark Lea named AJ Swann backup quarterback for Vanderbilt football over Ken Seals

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean

Vanderbilt football coach Clark Lea cooked up a surprise prior to the season opener on Saturday at Hawaii: Freshman AJ Swann, not junior Ken Seals, was listed as the backup quarterback on the depth chart.

Seals was the starter in 2020 and the first half of 2021 but injuries and ineffectiveness led to Mike Wright stepping in. Now, it's Swann, seen as the quarterback of the future, who has seemingly passed up Seals.

Still, Lea remained mum on the question of whether he would really throw Swann into a close game late if there were to be an injury to Wright, saying he'd use whoever gave the best chance to win.

"It's a razor thin margin between all three honestly, I felt like all three had good camps," Lea said Tuesday. " ... We have confidence in Ken that he's played in a lot of games. He can help us win. And certainly in the moment we would do make the decision we felt like best suited our team's chances to get the outcome we want. But we also want to honor the fact that we feel like AJ has earned the opportunity to be second on the depth chart."

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Injuries leave defensive depth thin

Defensive line has been hit hard by injuries. Miles Capers suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, while Brayden Bapst (undisclosed), Daevion Davis (torn ACL) and Devin Lee (undisclosed) are unlikely to play in the opener.

Lea is optimistic that Bapst, Davis and Lee should be able to return relatively early in the season.

Bapst did make the trip to Hawaii but is unlikely to play. Lee and Davis have not yet been able to participate in practice and won't play until they can do so, but Lea is optimistic on a return soon.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at or on Twitter @aria_gerson.