Newly hired Vanderbilt football coach Clark Lea is wasting no time putting his stamp on the program with a high-profile series of hires over the weekend.
Lea hired Justin Lustig as special teams coordinator, Casey Stangel as director of football operations, Norval McKenzie as running backs coach and Barton Simmons as general manager. Additionally, Inoke Breckterfield is expected to be named the new defensive line coach, per a report from The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.
Lustig spent the last four seasons at Syracuse, serving as special teams coordinator in his first season before being promoted to assistant head coach and special teams coordinator in 2019. He was a Broyles Award nominee is 2018 as the nation’s top assistant coach, and the Orange’s special teams unit ranked fifth in the country in 2020. His hiring was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel.
Stangel becomes the only female director of football ops in the SEC. She joins the Commodore football team after working with the Vanderbilt baseball team for the last four years. Stangel began as a graduate intern with the VU baseball team in 2017 before earning a promotion to administrative assistant in 2018 and internal operations coordinator in 2019. She confirmed her new role with Vanderbilt football in her Twitter bio.
McKenzie takes over for Tim Horton, who served as the ‘Dores running backs coach for the last two years. He was recently the running backs coach at Louisville, where he helped freshman Javian Hawkins rush for a school record 1,622 yards in 2019. McKenzie was a Broyles Award nominee at Arkansas State in 2018 — along with Lustig — and is a former Commodore teammate of Lea. His hiring was first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel.
A Nashville native and Montgomery Bell Academy alum, Simmons was a teammate of Lea’s at MBA. His official title with the Commodores will be general manager and he will serve in a director of player personnel role.
Simmons is formerly the national scouting director for 247Sports, which is one of the industry leaders in advanced scouting services related to prep talent. Simmons has spent more than a decade in recruiting, working with Rivals.com before moving to 247Sports in 2010. His hiring was first reported by 247Sports’ Robbie Weinstein.
At Wisconsin, Breckterfield helped the Badgers defense lead the Big Ten in total defense and run defense in 2020. He has served as defensive line coach at Weber State, Montana, UCLA and Pittsburgh. The 43-year-old worked with Lea at UCLA in 2011 when Lea was a linebackers coach. Breckterfield helped develop top-level NFL stars such as Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt.
Breckterfield's hire is somewhat unexpected as current defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze was expected to be retained by Vandy due to his recruiting connections.
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