With the SEC season less than four months away, here’s a look at how the conference’s coaches rank in 2015.
Bio: Derek Mason made his head coaching debut in 2014 after serving as a Stanford assistant for several years. He led the Cardinal defense to a Top 15 defensive efficiency ranking for three consecutive years, which included the No. 3 overall NCAA rushing defense (89.4 yards) No. 10 scoring defense (19.0 points) and No. 16 total defense (343.1 yards allowed) in 2013.
Vanderbilt hired Mason following James Franklin’s departure in January 2014. He is the 28th head coach in school history.
|San Diego Mesa (WR)
Weber St. (WR)
Idaho St. (RB)
St. Mary’s (AHC/Co-DC)
New Mexico St. (WR)
Minnesota Vikings (DB)
Reasoning for ranking: Mason’s first season at Vanderbilt was abysmal. He led the Commodores to a 3-9 record and went 0-8 in conference games.
Mason’s has the potential to improve his ranking, especially considering Vanderbilt’s improvement as the season progressed. The Commodores managed to challenge SEC opponents during their final games, even threatening to spoil Tennessee’s bowl chances in Week 14.
But it’s impossible to rank Mason based on anything other than his disappointing debut season. He is the only SEC head coach without multiple seasons of experience and, therefore, can only be judged on 2014.
|Date||Opponent / Event||Location||Time|
|09/05/15||vs. Western Kentucky||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|09/12/15||vs. Georgia *||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|09/19/15||vs. Austin Peay||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|09/26/15||at Ole Miss *||Oxford, Miss.||TBA|
|10/03/15||at Middle Tennessee State||Murfreesboro, Tenn.||TBA|
|10/17/15||at South Carolina *||Columbia, S.C.||TBA|
|10/24/15||vs. Missouri *||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|10/31/15||at Houston||Houston, Texas||TBA|
|11/07/15||at Florida *||Gainesville, Fla.||TBA|
|11/14/15||vs. Kentucky *||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|11/21/15||vs. Texas A&M *||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|11/28/15||at Tennessee *||Knoxville, Tenn.||TBA|
2015 Outlook: Vanderbilt has nowhere to go but up. The Commodores are far from a contender but should be a greater threat to SEC opponents. Mason will assume the role of defensive coordinator, returning to his area of expertise.
The Commodores also hired former Wisconsin offensive coordinator for the same position. Ludwig brings a run-heavy scheme that ranked No. 4 overall in the FBS and helped Melvin Gordon become a Heisman Trophy finalist and first round NFL Draft pick.
Rising sophomore Ralph Webb — who rushed for a freshman record 907 yards — will flourish in Ludwig’s offense. However, the Commodores must solve their quarterback situation before the season, rather than the year-long roulette of players in 2014.
Mason also has talent on defense including rising sophomore Nigel Bowden. Bowden led all SEC freshmen with 78 tackles and was the first freshman to lead the Commodores since All-American Jamie Winborn in 1998. He also became the first Vanderbilt linebacker voted to the freshman All-SEC team since Chris Marve in 2008.
The Commodores also return veterans Caleb Azubike, Stephen Weatherly and a cast of underclassmen with more experience from 2014.
Mason also signed three four-star prospects for the 2015 recruiting class, making much needed progress on the recruiting trail.
The coach’s tenure saw a disappointing start but could improve with time and patience. Still, Mason ranks last among SEC coaches entering the 2015 season based on a small sample size.