January 20th, 2014 10:30 AM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: AAC, Rivals, SEC, VU
Just as everyone from the Florida Keys to the Puget Sound questioned Vanderbilt’s hire of James Franklin — “Who’s he?” — folks from one coast to the other are proclaiming new hire Derek Mason to be the perfect man for the job. His resume certainly checks all the right boxes:
* At Stanford, he was part of a program that won big
* He’s recruited students that fit Vanderbilt’s academic profile
* He’s recruited the South, as he pointed out at his introductory presser
* He’s served as defensive coordinator at a program that plays an SEC style of ball
* He’s young, a former player and he’s coached in the NFL — which should help him communicate with his players and recruits
* And he’s not short on confidence, saying “SEC East title, here we come,” during that aforementioned press conference
On the surface, he’s a near carbon copy of Franklin. That’s a good thing. Franklin may now be trying to tear down what he built up by chasing VU commits, but he did erect the Commodore program in the first place. You can’t blame AD David Williams for trying to find someone with a resume akin to his last coach’s.
However — and mind you, this however is not a knock on Mason in any way — it would have been nice to see Vanderbilt take its newfound status as an honest-to-God football program with back-to-back top 25 finishes and see what kind of proven head coach the school could have landed.
There’s a scene in the film, “The American President” in which Micheal J. Fox’s character suggests the White House use the president’s high approval rating and “take it out for a spin.” Well, it would have been nice to see VU use its current status to try and woo some proven guys. Reports suggest the top two candidates aside from Mason were Clemson assistant Chad Morris and Indianapolis assistant Pep Hamilton. Maybe Williams likes to hire guys while they’re still hungry. Or maybe he did put out some early feelers to sitting head coaches only to be rebuffed. (But if that had happened, it’s likely someone would have been given a raise at his current school.)
There are zero guarantees when it comes to hiring coaches, of course. Franklin and Hugh Freeze were yawn hires outside of their new campuses. They turned out to be terrific hires. Last year, Bret Bielema was the “big name” hire that every fan craves. He inherited a mess and has a long rebuild ahead of him, but a nine-game losing streak in Year One and the 11th best recruiting class in the SEC (as currently rated by Rivals.com) certainly can’t be classified as “hot start” material.
So there’s nothing to say that a guy who’s already served as a head coach somewhere would have arrived in Nashville and led Vanderbilt to greater heights than Mason might lead them to. Again, it’s hard to argue with his resume. And grabbing the D-coordinator from a team that won the Pac-12 last season does indeed indicate the amount of progress Vanderbilt has made under Williams, Bobby Johnson (who recruited a lot of the guys his replacement won with) and Franklin.
It just would have been fun to see if the Commodores could have been able to lure in a successful coach from the MAC, MWC or AAC with its newfound status as bowl-goin’ ballgame-winnin’ program.
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