Commentary: New Vanderbilt coaching hires

Many have called for swift changes in the Commodore coaching staff and it's happening. Derek Mason will run the defense in 2015 with the help of former Pro-bowl cornerback Todd Lyght. Look inside for some thoughts on Vandy's new assistants.

DEREK MASON CALLS HIS OWN NUMBER

Vanderbilt officially announced a new coaching hire on Monday, but the bigger news may be the hire that wasn’t made. As widely reported the ‘Dores have hired Andy Ludwig to be the offensive coordinator, taking him from the same position at Wisconsin. The hiring of Ludwig, who just watched his Badger team wreck shop on the Big Ten and take down Auburn in the Outback Bowl, is a huge statement of intent from the Commodore program.

What did not happen, however, was the hiring of a defensive coordinator. It had been widely reported that New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff was going to take the position, but he is staying with the Saints. Though we may never find out if this was a decision by McGriff, by Mason, or a mutual choice, the end result is that Mason is going to step up and call defensive plays himself in 2015. The only hiring which will be made on the defensive side of the ball will be a new cornerbacks coach.

Per the Tennessean, "After weeks of deliberation and conversations with many coaches, I've decided to call our defense," Mason said. "No one knows our defense and what we can accomplish with this defense more than I. At the same time, I expect to attract one of the nation's top coaches to guide our cornerbacks."

The irony here is that after weeks of searching and due diligence the Commodores may have found the right man for the job by default. Mason made his name as one of the best defensive coordinators in the country at Stanford, while many reports out of Nashville have pointed to the direct influence of Mason on the defense being the key to its improved play during the second half of the year.

It was important that Mason spent his first year as a head coach being the overseer that the position requires. It seems to have humbled him somewhat and given him a new perspective as to how to construct a team. Now, though, is the right time for him to take on the extra work load that comes with being a coordinator. Get back to doing what he does best and what made him such a hot property in the first place.

Coaching defense is what Derek Mason knows. He built one of the best in the nation in Palo Alto and there is no reason he can’t do the same in Nashville.

TODD LYGHT IS VANDERBILT CORNERBACK COACH

When Derek Mason announced he was going to lead the defense himself in 2015 the second part of the announcement was that instead of hiring a defensive coordinator the ‘Dores would pick up a new cornerbacks coach. That hire was confirmed over the weekend when former Super Bowl Champion safety Todd Lyght became the latest addition to the coaching staff.

Lyght was a 12 year professional in the NFL after being drafted fifth overall by the then Los Angeles Rams in 1991 out of Notre Dame. He was an integral part of the Rams Super Bowl winning team in 1999, so much so that he was named an All-Pro that season.

Lyght retired in 2002 and has been involved with football ever since. He spent some time as an analyst, then as a high school coach (his school won back to back Nevada state championships with Lyght as an assistant), before making the jump to the college ranks with Chip Kelly at Oregon in 2011. His position there was as a defensive intern, but Kelly obviously saw enough from Lyght that when he jumped to the NFL with Philadelphia he came back for Lyght and promoted him to the role of assistant defensive backs coach.

At Vanderbilt Lyght will get to continue his coaching education under one of the best defensive minds in the game. Regardless of your perception of Derek Mason the head coach, it is unquestionable that when it comes down to the x’s and o’s of defense Mason is in his element. Lyght will be able to study under Mason during the spring ball and come into fall practice knowing exactly what Mason expects of his defensive backs in the 3-4 system he is wanting to run.

The Vandy defense may have had serious growing pains this year, but the pieces are in place for the defensive backfield to provide a boost in production in year two of the Mason administration. Darrius Sims is one who has already shown flashes of playmaking ability beyond his years, but the likes of Torren McGaster and Tre Bell are others who Lyght will hope to mold in his image.

If some of these young defensive backs can grow into anything like a copy of their new coach, then the Vandy secondary is going to be very exciting to watch going forward.

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