Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea has been identified as the top target for the Vanderbilt coaching job and is expected to be named the school's next coach, according to multiple sources. The move marks a homecoming for Lea, who is from the Nashville area, played at Vanderbilt and has both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the school.

Lea, 38, has emerged as one of the country’s top assistant coaches, as he’s on the cusp of helping the Fighting Irish to their second College Football Playoff appearance in his three seasons as defensive coordinator there. They’ve gone undefeated in the regular season in both 2018 and this year.

Lea’s success at private, academically oriented schools like Notre Dame and Wake Forest was appealing to first-year Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Storey Lee. She valued his role in building and shaping the No. 2 Fighting Irish into a national title contender. She’s also a Vanderbilt graduate and former athlete at the school and her priority in her nascent tenure is to unlock the potential of the football program.