HOOVER, Ala. — Derek Mason said Vanderbilt underwent an offseason transformation in everything from maturity to physiques.
His coaching staff certainly has a new look.
Mason approaches his second season with the Commodores with four new assistants after firing both coordinators. The former Stanford defensive coordinator is now running the defense.
“I know it’s disappointing, the season we had a year ago,” Mason said Monday at Southeastern Conference Media Days. “But that’s a comma. It’s a comma, and not a period.
“This football team has definitely done the things that we need to do in order to get ourselves back on track and be exactly what we want to be. Our program’s made great strides in the last eight months since that Tennessee finale.”
He assessed the Commodores as “a much different football team than it was a year ago.”
Vandy was 3-9 and winless in league games during Mason’s debut season. He can point to a resurgence by Arkansas after posting the same records in Bret Bielema’s first season.
The Commodores ranked last in the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense in 2014. Their season included a 37-7 opening loss to Temple and a 51-0 thrashing by Mississippi State.
“We weren’t a very competitive football team in 2014, and that’s on me,” Mason said. “I take full responsibility for that.”
He said new strength coach James Dobson has already had an impact.
“We look like an SEC football team,” Mason said.
He also had high praise for new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who held the same job the past two seasons at Wisconsin.
Vanderbilt center Spencer Pulley said the team needed to change its attitude, “which we all knew wasn’t good.”
“This is a completely different team,” he said.
Mason isn’t predicting results in terms of wins and losses, but he does believe the Commodores will be better this season.
In the meantime, he’s not sweating his job security after just one season. Pressure comes with the territory, after all.
“It’s college football. I’ve been coaching 22 years,” Mason said. “Every year, I coach on a one-year mentality. That’s a mindset. That’s what you do.
“You understand exactly what this game is and what you have to do, and it’s about production.”