Vanderbilt entered spring practice wounded, with five new assistant coaches and a football field full of question marks.

The Commodores weren’t going to sprout All-SEC players within the course of 15 spring practices. But the team needed to get the basics down: division of labor among coach Derek Mason and his staff, becoming fundamentally sound at every position and, perhaps most importantly, deciding on a quarterback and an offense. (More on that shortly.)

RELATED: Top 5 priorities for Vanderbilt’s spring practices

Last season’s 3-9 record was embarrassing. There’s no other way to describe Mason’s first year as a head coach, especially after the team won nine games in back-to-back seasons before James Franklin left for Penn State. The Commodores avoided total meltdown, barely, by squeaking past UMass and Charleston Southern.

No one expects the team to vault back into contention for the SEC East in 2015. But Mason has to show the program’s fan base and administration he’s a competent head coach, and that the team can at least compete for a lower-tier bowl game starting next fall.

With the exception of the latest setback at quarterback (again, more on this momentarily), it seems like Vanderbilt enjoyed a good spring.

1. Find a quarterback.

Addressed?: Yes and no.

Vanderbilt didn’t go as far as naming a starter after spring practice. But after Patton Robinette worked with the first-team offense during the Black & Gold game, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig told reporters “it’s pretty clear in my mind where we’re going to go.”

Then Robinette decided he’ll give up football to focus on medical school. After finally resolving its biggest question since Derek Mason took over — who is our no-doubt starter at quarterback? — Vandy now must start over in some ways.

Johnny McCrary looked passable at times in 2014, but completed just 2-of-11 for 11 yards and two interceptions in the spring game and doesn’t seem to have the accuracy that Ludwig is seeking. Is he the guy by default, or will the team be forced to re-think its apparent plan to redshirt incoming four-star Kyle Shurmur?

2. Adjust to the new coaches and roles.

Addressed?: Yes, with a caveat.

Ludwig and company appear poised and in control on the offensive side of the ball.

Mason reportedly didn’t agree with the philosophy of the potential defensive coordinators he interviewed, so he decided to assume control of the unit while simultaneously trying to get a grasp of what it takes to be a CEO of sorts for the program.

It’s difficult to judge whether that’s a good decision, one that will allow Mason to impart his strengths on the team, or if it will create problematic logistical quandaries for the second-year head coach. All the news and notes that emerged from spring practice made the program seem much more certain of its direction than it was during the season.

Perhaps Mason is starting to grasp where the team needs to go and which weaknesses are most pressing. Outside linebackers coach Kenwick Thompson will help handle meetings and scheme-related issues. But again, this is tough to judge completely, and we’ll have to see this fall.

3. Find an offense that works.

Addressed?: Not really, but the team has a plan.

Again, Ludwig never outright named Robinette the starter, but seemingly figuring out whom he wanted to lead the offense was a crucial step for the next five months leading up to the season.

No one expects Vandy to deviate wildly from the power running game and two-tight end sets that so closely mirrored what Mason witnessed on a daily basis as defensive coordinator at Stanford. But Ludwig expressed the intention to install only vanilla packages this spring, then build out the offense based on the particular strengths of the presumed starter.

It seems that he hoped it would be possible to pinpoint that guy by the end of spring. He and Mason talked often of avoiding last year’s debacle, when four different players started at least one game. Many of those four players started, then got removed, and then later got re-installed as the starter.

Everything hinted that Ludwig would spend the summer going about fine-tuning the playbook for Robinette. If he feels strongly that McCrary now becomes the guy, he still can execute his plan. He’ll just have to make changes to his notes and shift his thought process. But if Ludwig isn’t sure about McCrary? It may be difficult to design the specifics of the 2015 offense, and we could see a very bland, predictable playbook come September.

4. Emphasize fundamentals.

Addressed?: Yes.

The team scaled way back with its teaching this spring. The offense emphasized completing simple passes, route-running and basic blocking techniques. The defense? Assignment football, communication and basic techniques at every position.

Mason also chose to launch spring practice at such an early date so that the team could continue hammering home fundamentals during the allowable 10 hours per week the NCAA grants to football teams the rest of the school semester, even after spring ball.

Vandy can’t practice football-specific things on the field with a football, and most of that time is devoted to the strength and conditioning program. But the Commodores coaches can spend a couple of hours each week in film study and on-field walk-throughs, re-emphasizing all the fundamentals they harped on all spring.

5. Don’t overthink it.

Addressed?: Yes.

The team experimented in spots — most notably moving kick returner and nickleback Darrius Sims to the backfield full-time — but didn’t get desperate or wild.

After Mason’s constant tinkering with the offense last year and compulsive need to seize control of the defense this offseason, I thought maybe he’d be so desperate to improve the team that he may enact some hair-brained moves or half-cocked ideas.

But moving Sims to the backfield makes all the sense in the world. The team needs some creativity on offense, and Sims gives Ludwig some options as a guy who scored three return touchdowns on defense and special teams in ’14.

The team seems to have refined its priorities and simplified its decision-making since last season, which bodes well for 2015, at least in theory.