5 things Derek Mason should do to make next year's team better
The Vanderbilt Commodores finished their first year under head coach Derek Mason with a 3-9 (0-8 SEC) record. The Commodores struggled throughout the season, lacking depth and failing to see consistent production at several positions. Here’s a look at five things Mason should do to make next year’s team better.
1. Develop core Freshman talent: Vanderbilt’s best players were redshirt freshmen Ralph Webb and Nigel Bowden. Webb set the school rushing record with a team-best 907 yards — along with four touchdowns — on 212 attempts. Bowden led the Commodores with 78 tackles and averaged 7.1 per game. Vanderbilt has several other redshirt freshmen that made an impact, including wide receiver C.J. Duncan, DB/KR Darrius Sims and quarterback Johnny McCrary. Mason should focus on his core group of talent and develop them into consistent SEC standouts.
2. Stick with a quarterback: Vanderbilt’s biggest problem was its inconsistency at quarterback. The Commodores experienced a QB roulette throughout the season, including the team’s final game against Tennessee last week. McCrary and Patton Robinette were the two most successful choices, but injuries also played a factor in the team making more than ten quarterback changes. Mason must decide which of the two quarterbacks gives his team the best chance to win and stick with one through the season.
3. Hire better assistants: Mason’s first staff included several coaches with personal ties. Karl Dorell, who was an assistant at Northern Arizona while Mason played as a defensive back, will not return as Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator. Mason needs to hire the best coaches possible, rather than those with personal ties. His loyalty may become a problem as the program tries to reclaim its success from the past three seasons.
4. Make adjustments to SEC: Mason succeeded as a defensive coordinator at Stanford. His defenses dominated the Pac-12 and helped build the Cardinal into a winning program. However, his first season in the SEC was less successful, as his team struggled on both sides of the ball. Mason may need to adjust to the SEC and make schematic changes to succeed. Although, his philosophy would see better results with improved personnel.
5. Recruit talent to Vanderbilt: Let’s be honest, former head coach James Franklin left the current staff with little to work with. Franklin poached the majority of a then-top-20 class after making the jump to Penn State, taking his recruits with him to Happy Valley. Mason did his best to salvage what was left of a depleted recruiting class and has two four-star commits for 2015. However, Vanderbilt ranks No. 54 overall and No. 13 in the SEC, according to 247Sports.com‘s 2015 team rankings.