James Franklin may have taken his bravado to Penn State, but the players at Vanderbilt are still ready to play with an edge. That's what new VU coach Derek Mason had to say on WGFX-FM in Nashville yesterday.
"James did the heavy lifting. He did a great job of establishing an identity and putting a chip on these kids' shoulders. You know what, it hasn't left. But I think if we want to play championship football versus just bowl football, it’s got to look different. It’s got to be a little bit bigger. It’s got to be better. We’ve got to play smarter. We have to be more efficient in how we deal with things. I tell our guys: Everything Matters. How we eat, how we sleep, how we practice, how we prepare – it all matters when you talk about championship football.”
Kudos to any coach confident enough to acknowledge the hard work put in by his predecessor. Franklin himself never gave Bobby Johnson enough credit for leaving him an enormous amount of redshirt juniors and redshirt seniors to work with. Mason's not only willing to praise Franklin, but he was ready to heap some surprising praise on his team yesterday, too.
"To be honest, I think we’re equally as talented (as Stanford) if not more, defensively. We’re big up front. Our backers are fast. They’re extremely fast. And secondary wise, it’s probably very similar. (Stanford) has a talented secondary back there. They are more proven because they’ve played more ball.
Offensively, we’re behind them. That thing (Stanford offense) has been established. Those linemen have been groomed. I think we’re comparable up front because we’re both tough and gritty. It’s a veteran group. Everywhere else, (Stanford) is obviously more experienced... They’ve proven their running game is strong. I think we’re similar, but offensively they’re ahead. They’ve been doing it a while.”
For those who've not been keeping up, Stanford -- where Mason served as defensive coordinator until taking the Vanderbilt job -- has finished ranked in the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches Poll each of the last four seasons. So when Mason says the Commodores are as talented or more than the Cardinal on defense, that's a pretty darn big statement.