Aug. 2, 2018
By Zac Ellis, VUCommodores.com
NASHVILLE – Vanderbilt football is back!
One day before officially opening fall camp on Friday, head coach Derek Mason and the Commodores met with media on Thursday to preview the 2018 football season.
Mason was joined by offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, defensive coordinator Jason Tarverand special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga, as well as running back Khari Blasingame, receiver Kalija Lipscomb, quarterback Kyle Shurmur, defensive lineman Dare Odeyingbo, cornerback Joejuan Williams and linebacker Charles Wright.
Here’s what the Dores had to say:
• Mason: “I think we’ve gotten better in the areas we’ve needed to. Size, depth, speed. This group has a different competitive feel.”
• Mason said backup quarterback Deuce Wallace has been suspended for the fall following a violation of school policy. He said the team expects Wallace to return in January.
• Mason on Vanderbilt’s deep running back corps: “I’m comfortable with running back by committee.”
• Mason on Illinois transfer running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who is eligible in 2018 and should be a key piece to the Dores’ running game: “He came in with a different mentality. He worked all last fall, so he ran through us at times. It was great to see him work like that… Ke’Shawn Vaughn is one of the 11 leaders on this football team.”
• Mason on opening season against high-octane passing offenses in Middle Tennessee and Nevada: “We’re going to get baptized in the secondary. But we have leaders like LaDarius Wiley and experienced players back there … Those guys have gotten experience. Now it’s about those guys putting it on tape.”
• Tarver on Vanderbilt’s defensive philosophy: “Since we came in, our No. 1 thing we’ve wanted is the ball. There’s only one on the field. Everything we do defensively here is designed to get the football… You should do everything you can to track it, to chase it, to pull it out and give it back to Coach Lud and the offense. That’s how you win football games.”
• Ludwig said Vanderbilt’s three offensive goals in 2018 are ball security, a “run-to-win” mentality and generating more explosive pass plays.
- Ludwig on backup quarterbacks Mo Hasan and Allan Walters: “I think they’re both going to be more athletic than Kyle. I don’t see the scheme changing in terms of going to spread when one of those young men go in. They both are very intelligent young men who can pick up the system well. But it’s not like where Kyle Shurmur is in Year 4 of the offense.”
Ludwig on Vanderbilt’s running backs: “The depth and quality of depth at the tailback position is a great situation for the Commodores. Balancing out the skillsets and personalities in that room, it’s a great challenge.”
• Mennenga said Vanderbilt’s special teams is a work in progress: “As a special teams group, we’ve got a lot to prove. We’re very inexperience there, losing three guys who have the majority of kicks, punts and snaps last year. But we have a great group of guys who went through the spring and summer.”
• Shurmur praised the Dores’ wide receiving corps, which lost three seniors from 2017. “We had this whole offseason to build chemistry. That was one of our focuses. Guys who have experience like Kaljia and Trey [Ellis] had to step up, and they’ve done that.”
• Asked how he can become Vanderbilt’s starter at running back, Blasingame shrugged. “I have to go out there, step into it and really grab it… Your tape is your resume. Coach always says that. I’ve really got to prove that I can go do it.”
• Lipscomb said he has felt like a leader among the receivers since spring practice. “I think my role on this team has changed over the course of the last six months or so. I think I’m stepping into that role now.”
• Tarver’s theme on defense is “All gas, no brakes,” and he mentioned it several times on Thursday. Asked how often Vanderbilt’s defenders hear that phrase, Wright laughed. “Until our ears bleed.”
• Williams said Vanderbilt’s offseason has been defined by chasing turnovers. “That’s the biggest thing we worked on this offseason, getting those turnovers and getting those picks.”
• Odeyingbo on the difference between Tarver and Mason as a defensive coordinator: “Both those guys talk about the same thing: All gas, no brakes. The terminology might be new with Tarver, but it’s the same mantra Coach Mason teaches. You always go hard no matter what.”