Vanderbilt quickly moved to replace departed defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, who left for the same job at Michigan, and Clark Lea has reportedly promoted from within.

Nick Howell, who brings 9 seasons of coordinating experience from his time at UVA and BYU before he was recently hired as Vanderbilt’s defensive backs coach is the new DC, Pete Thamel of ESPN reported. Minter left for the same position at Michigan. Minter had a strong connection with the Harbaugh family after he served under John Harbaugh as a Baltimore Ravens’ defensive assistant from 2017 to 2020.

Howell left Virginia after 6 seasons in the wake of Bronco Mendenhall’s sudden retirement. He was previously BYU’s defensive coordinator for 3 seasons, which was part of a nine-year stint at BYU. He also coached at 3 high schools in Utah.

Howell reportedly made a quick impression on Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea, who is entering his second season with the Commodores.

During Vanderbilt’s 2-10 rebuilding year, they finished No. 119 in scoring defense (35.6). With Lea’s first full class, there’s optimism that the upgraded roster and a full recruiting class can yield progress.

When Howell joined the staff, Lea described his hire this way: “Nick brings a wealth of experience on the defensive side of the ball,” Lea said. “Throughout his career, he has proven his ability to develop players and strengthen culture, and he certainly will help move us forward in both areas. I am thrilled to have him as a part of the Vanderbilt football family and looking forward to the positive impact he will have in our program.”