Clark Lea (pronounced lee) is in his second season as linebackers coach at South Dakota State University and has added the duties of recruiting coordinator in 2008.
A late addition to the Jackrabbit coaching staff in 2007, he quickly helped mold a defensive unit that played an instrumental role in SDSU’s Great West Football Conference championship. Under his leadership, the Jackrabbits’ three starting linebackers ranked among the top four tacklers in the GWFC. First-team all-conference selections Jimmy Rogers and Justin Kubesh ranked first and fourth in the league with respective averages of 10.0 and 8.6 stops per game. Second-team honoree Chris Johnson ranked second with an average of 9.6 tackles per game.
Lea previously served two seasons on Karl Dorrell’s coaching staff at UCLA. As an intern working with the defensive line in 2005, the Bruins finished the season ranked 13th, capping a 10-2 season by winning the Vitalis Sun Bowl over Northwestern.
In 2006, Lea was elevated to a graduate assistant coach for linebackers, working with mentors DeWayne Walker and Chuck Bullough to oversee a defensive unit that ranked first in the Pac-10 Conference in rushing defense — 12th nationally — and second in the league in scoring defense. UCLA earned a berth in the Emerald Bowl, completing the season with a 7-6 overall record.
Lea began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, Vanderbilt (Tenn.), where he served as a graduate assistant for the running backs, in 2005.
As a student-athlete, Lea began his collegiate career as a baseball player — first at Birmingham Southern (Ala.) and then at Belmont (Tenn.). While at Birmingham Southern, he played on the team that captured the 2001 NAIA baseball national championship.
He later transferred to Vanderbilt, where he lettered in football three times (2002-04) and earned All-Academic SEC honors while majoring in political science. Lea also was honored by the National Football Foundation for academic and athletic excellence and was awarded the H. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship by the Southeastern Conference. In 2005, he was selected as a finalist for the John Wooden Cup, an award presented by Athletes for a Better World Foundation for work ethic and sportsmanship.