Derek Mason appears to be close to a return to the head coaching ranks.

According to On3’s Matt Zenitz and Action Network’s Brett McMurphy, Mason will be the new head coach at Middle Tennessee of Conference USA. He will replace Rick Stockstill, who was fired after 18 seasons.

Mason already knows the state of Tennessee well: as the head coach at Vanderbilt from 2014-2020, he was fired in 2020 with 1 game remaining and the Commodores sitting at 0-8. But he returned to the SEC in 2021 as part of Bryan Harsin’s initial staff at Auburn as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.

After 1 season on the Plains, he resigned to take the same position at Oklahoma State. He did not return after the 2022 season, opting instead to take a sabbatical from coaching.

Under Stockstill, Middle Tennessee was 113-111, with its best year coming in 2009 as it finished 10-3 and won the New Orleans Bowl. It went to back-to-back bowl games in 2021 and 2022 before slumping to a 4-8 record in 2023, leading to Stockstill’s ouster.

Now, with the Blue Raiders with a head coaching vacancy for the 1st time in nearly 2 decades, they appear to have found their man.