Why Derek Mason Feels Confident Heading into the 2018 Season
Photo Credit To Saturday Down South

Why Derek Mason Feels Confident Heading into the 2018 Season

Derek Mason embodies the attitude of the ideal Vanderbilt Head Coach with his a message for the media heading into the 2018 season — a message that demands respect.

“There’s been media out there, that’s spoken to the idea that our game is one to be overlooked, watch out. I’m telling you right now, this team is going to show up, we’re going to play well. We are going to come out the blocks and play the way we need to — we’re going to finish the way we should, the Vanderbilt way.”

Derek Mason took the podium at the annual SEC Media Days Thursday alongside senior trio LaDarius Wiley, Kyle Shurmur, and Justin Skule in Atlanta.

 

Vandy looks to rebound after a disappointing latter portion of the 2017 season, after beginning the year 3-0 for the first time since 2011. The hot start included a victory over then No. 18 Kansas State in Nashville.

It was a season that was unlike any other throughout the country, one that even included a talk about a future plan for an off-campus stadium — which was later renounced.

Derek Mason discussed a number of topics Thursday  but one in particular has seemed to plague the Commodores for quite some time.

In 2011, the ‘Dores began the season with the same 3-0 mark but derailed their season dropping 6 of the last 9 contests in route to a 6-7 record. Furthermore, Vandy started the season 5-0 in 2008, which included a win over then #13 Auburn on West End.

Historically, the program has been to eight bowl games, but the Commodores have been on the door step of bowl eligibility a number of occasions, but fallen short.

Mason highlighted the importance of propelling the program forward amid the struggles last season after Vandy’s season was derailed after the 59-0 loss in Nashville to eventual National Champion Alabama.

You play against a good Alabama team that just beats the brakes off you, and that’s okay.

I mean, you learn a lot. I think for me as a head coach, being the defensive coordinator, I probably got in my feelings a little bit.”

“I thought my team needed to be harder – we needed to work that team harder, we didn’t. A loss is a loss. You can’t let one become two, three, four in this conference. That’s what I did. That is me becoming too much of a boots on the ground guy and not seeing it from a bird’s eye view.”

Mason was his normal transparent self but sensed the importance to win after letting a talented team fall off the wayside last year, after reaching a bowl game in 2016.

Vandy loses all-time leading rusher Ralph Webb, now with the New England Patriots, along with Trent Sherfield, (Arizona) C.J Duncan (Arizona), and Caleb Scott (Seahawks) offensively – as all signed free agent deals.

Defensively, the Commodores lone draft pick Oren Burks was a third round selection by the Green Bay Packers, while teammates Tre’ Herndon (Jaguars) and Emmanuel Smith (Falcons) signed free agent contracts. Burks was Mason’s second linebacker drafted in consecutive seasons.

A telling reason of Vandy’s struggles was the inability to stop the run. Vanderbilt was 102nd against the run in 2017 – surrendering 198.5 yards per game.

Entering the 2018 season, Mason finally feels good about his depth on the defensive line for the first time.

“I’ve got nine 300-pounders up front, for the first time in my tenure I’ve got guys that can play up front. I’ve got a full four-man rotation in a three-man front, and that’s important, this is a line of scrimmage conference.”

Former Vandy Quarterback Jordan Rodgers speaks to the gains on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball heading into 2018.

https://twitter.com/VandyFootball/status/1019964822807605250

“If you want to be successful, stay in the moment.”

In 2018, Vanderbilt hopes to do just that, as the season kicks off Sept. 1 against MTSU in Nashville.

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