Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea is working to fill out his inaugural Commodores staff at his alma mater, and Lea had an up-and-coming Southeastern Conference assistant coach in Nashville Friday discussing the possibility of joining Lea's Vanderbilt staff.
Sources tell FootballScoop that Tyler Santucci, who previously worked alongside Lea on Notre Dame's vaunted defense in 2017 and also has experience under Dave Clawson – Lea's former boss – at Wake Forest, was in the Music City at the start of this weekend to discuss the defensive coordinator position on Lea's Vanderbilt staff.
Santucci is viewed as one of the "top two or three (candidates)" for the Commodores' defensive play-caller post.
A former Vanderbilt player who also attended high school in Nashville, Lea was hired in late-December to run the Commodores' program after the school had fired seven-year head coach Derek Mason.
Santucci played collegiately at tiny Stony Brook, but he has been a rising star in the major-college coaching ranks for the past half-dozen years. The former linebacker Santucci has worked twice at Wake Forest, Texas State, Notre Dame and most recently as the linebackers coach for Jimbo Fisher's Texas A&M Aggies squad that just finished ranked No. 4 in the final Associated Press Top 25 – the program's highest ranking in nearly 80 years.
Santucci worked with both Lea and current Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko at Notre Dame, and the trio have remained extremely close to this day. The group, including Clawson, all remain close friends.
"It's like a family relationship with them," said a source familiar with all the coaches.
Lea has worked methodically to assemble his first Vanderbilt staff, adding highly regarded Justin Lustig as assistant head coach / special teams coordinator, former 247 sports recruiting lead and former Lea teammate at Montgomery Bell Academy, Barton Simmons, as Vanderbilt's general manager as well as adding Nik Valdiserri into a player personnel-type of role.
Both offensive and defensive coordinator hires are expected in the coming days.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.