Derek Mason Doesn't Believe in Ceilings

Vanderbilt is coming off of consecutive 9-4 seasons and a pair of Top 25 finishes in end of season polls for the first time in school history. In most places that would mean that the third season would start with continuity.

The coaching staff would be returning with a bevy of new recruits, the schemes would be ingrained into the players so that other than a couple of tweaks everything would be set, and most likely the key pieces would be in place offensively to continue the roll.

Welcome to the outlier. Welcome to Vanderbilt football 2014.

The biggest change on the sidelines is obviously the complete overhaul of the coaching staff under new head coach Derek Mason. On the field, however, the biggest change is undoubtedly the switch from the 4-3 defensive front to the 3-4. The coaches have compared the process with trying to drink from a fire hose as they need to get the defensive guys bedded in and comfortable with the new system as quickly as possible.

Making this switch in the NFL is tough enough, and in that league you can bring in free agents specifically to address the issues at nose tackle and at the pass rushing linebacker position. In college, of course, no such luxury exists and Mason is going to have to work his magic on molding these square pegs into round holes. "I've watched the film, I've seen them on tape," Mason said to the Associated Press. "I want to match up the movement part and see who works (when we get out on the field). As of right now we really don't know what it all looks like, we just know that we have some talented players."

Vanderbilt may have won nine straight twice in a row, but their new head coach has a recent record which makes that look decidedly average. As defensive coordinator at Stanford, Mason saw his team win 11 or more games each of the last three seasons. In a recent interview with ESPN Mason said, "The one thing I've learned over time is that you can't get mired in people's expectations. You have to tear it down and build it up every year. So with that being said, 2013 has no effect on 2014. What we have to do is put our cornerstones in place.

Translation – the past is exactly that and it is my turn to take over this program.

One of the more interesting things about the Mason hire is where he came from. It was not to long ago when Stanford was a doormat in the Pac-10 to the rest of the California schools. The Cardinal is, of course, a high level academic institution first and foremost. This meant that for the longest time they were unable to compete with the football factories in their region. Mason saw how a tough as nails team that played smart and dominated the line of scrimmage with an approach that was in many ways out fashioned and even out dated couple compete week in and week out with some of the best teams, and the flashiest offenses, in the nation.

When Mason says he doesn't believe in the past, you believe him. When he chooses his words to show that he thinks he can win at Vanderbilt, you believe him. This final quote from the same ESPN interview should get Vandy fans excited about the future.

"This program, whether anybody believes it, is going to win championships," Mason said. "We're already on the clock. This spring is important for laying that foundation, and then we're going to go one fall practice at a time, one week at a time, and make our march toward the SEC East title."

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