Derek Mason
Derek  Mason
Head Coach



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Vanderbilt falls 45-17 to Missouri in last home contest of '17. (11/18/17) Photos by Joe Howell.


Vanderbilt vs. Missouri (USATSI)

Photos from Vanderbilt football vs. Missouri - Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017

Entering his fifth season in charge of the Vanderbilt football program, head coach Derek Mason has the Commodores trending upward, on and off the field.

Vanderbilt capped Mason’s fourth season in 2017 with a win over Tennessee in Knoxville, the program’s fourth victory over the rival Volunteers in the past six seasons. The Commodores finished 4-0 in nonconference games last season, including a thrilling 14-7 win over No. 18 Kansas State on national television on Sept. 16.

In February, Mason capped off Vanderbilt’s highest-rated recruiting class in his tenure, a group that ranked among the top-40 signing classes in the country by most outlets. Mason likewise recruited four new coaches to staff in Jan. 2018, including defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga.

Mason saw his third linebacker in the past three seasons be selected in the NFL Draft when the Green Bay Packers picked captain Oren Burks with the 88th overall pick. Burks became the third Vanderbilt player in the past five years to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft, joining linebacker Zach Cunningham (Houston, 2nd round, 2017) and wide receiver Jordan Matthews (Philadelphia, 2nd round, 2014). Meanwhile, seven other Vanderbilt seniors signed rookie free agent contracts with NFL teams in 2018.

Vanderbilt football student-athletes continued to perform well off the field under Mason. A total of 45 Commodores landed on the All-SEC Academic Honor roll in the fall semester, with placekicker Tommy Openshaw earning a spot on the Allstate-AFCA national Good Works Team, the second Commodore in as many years to garner that honor. Vanderbilt football continued to rank among the national leaders in graduation rates, as every Commodore who has completed his eligibility under Mason has earned an undergraduate degree.

Vanderbilt football student-athletes teamed with Nashville-area businesses as part of the athletic department’s comprehensive summer internship program. Meanwhile, several Commodore players participated in study abroad programs in the summer, with six players venturing to Australia in May, including likely starters LaDarius Wiley and Josh Smith.

In 2016, Mason guided to its eighth postseason appearance at the Camping World Independence Bowl. The Commodores finished the regular season 6-6, including four wins in its final six games. The season featured  marquee SEC victories over Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee. The Commodores closed the regular season by scoring a combined 83 points in wins over the Rebels and Volunteers. Their 45 points against Tennessee marked the program’s most in SEC play since 1971.

Under Mason, Commodore student-athletes are performing well on and off the football field.

In 2017, running back Ralph Webb concluded his career as the leading rusher in school history and the seventh-leading rusher in SEC history. Currently with the New England Patriots, Webb set a bushel of school single and career records, including 4,173 rushing yards, 931 rush attempts and 32 rushing touchdowns.

In 2016, inside linebacker Zach Cunningham became Vanderbilt's first consensus All-American in more than three decades. The redshirt junior swept first-team honors from every prominent outlet in the nation.

Cunningham's final accolade came when the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) selected him to its First Team All-America Defense. Cunningham now starts at linebacker with Houston after the Texans selected him No. 57 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Mason has made impressive coaching hires his first year on campus. This winter, he attracted Tarver and Mennenga away from the NFL ranks to become offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, respectively. He also brought former Texas A&M offensive coach Aaron Moorehead to Nashville as wide receivers coach and enlisted a former pupil at Stanford, Terrence Brown, as the team's cornerbacks coach. In 2015, Mason's hired Andy Ludwig and head strength coach James Dobson from Big Ten programs to oversee the Commodore offensive attack and conditioning program, respectively. He has also added three talented young minds since the first year in offensive line coach Cameron Norcross, defensive line coach C.J. Ah You and inside linebackers coach Chris Marve.

Since arriving on campus, Mason has focused on developing men of character and integrity with the football team. Five former Commodore football players have been accepted into the Vanderbilt Medical School in the last two years. In the last three calendar years, the team has nearly 165 SEC Academic Honor Roll recipients and more than 75 Dean's List honorees.

Mason’s Commodores continued to serve as the SEC leader in the classroom. Vanderbilt football finished third nationally with a 993 APR (Academic Progress Rate) score in 2017, the fourth straight year it has topped the SEC in the calculation. The Commodores continue to rank as a national contender for the AFCA-Memphis Touchdown Club Academic Achievement Award which gthey last shared in 2015.

Mason's administration of the Vanderbilt program also includes innovation. He has been instrumental in creating a summer internship program for Commodore student-athletes that is one of the most unique in the nation. Started in 2014 within the football team, the internship program has been expanded to other Vanderbilt squads, providing excellent work experience opportunities for student-athletes. 

Mason became Vanderbilt's 28th head coach in January 2014, coming to Nashville after serving as associate head coach and Willie Shaw Director of Defense for the 2013 Pacific-12 champion Stanford Cardinal.

"I am so excited to be at Vanderbilt," Mason said at the time he was hired. "This university combines the best of what's good about college athletics and academics. We expect to be competitive and look forward to competing for an SEC East crown."

Mason was defensive coordinator at Stanford since 2011, helping take the Cardinal to Rose Bowl appearances in 2013 and 2014, and consecutive Pac-12 titles with one of the nation's top defensive units. Under Mason, the Cardinal ranked among the NCAA national Top 15 in defensive efficiency for three consecutive years.

While facing seven ranked opponents and one of the nation's toughest schedules in 2013, Mason's defense ranked third in the NCAA in rushing defense (89.4 yards), 10th in scoring defense (19.0 points) and 16th in total offense (343.1 yards).

The Cardinal was one of only five teams last year to allow less than 100 rushing yards per game. The team was also among the best nationally in producing stops for negative yardage, ranking fifth with 44 sacks and seventh with 109 tackles for loss. The defense was also superb on third downs, holding opponents to a 32 percent conversion rate.

Off the field, the Cardinal ranks among the nation's best with a football graduation rate of 95 percent. Like Vanderbilt, Stanford ranks among the nation's elite academic universities.

In 2012, Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach, after directing a defense that ranks among the best in the nation and finest in Stanford history. The 2012 unit broke Stanford's single season record for quarterback sacks and topped the Pac-12 in numerous categories, including scoring defense and total defense, helping the Cardinal to a 11-2 season capped off with a Rose Bowl crown.

Mason's leadership paved the way to a historic defensive output in 2012, breaking Stanford's single-season sacks record (57) and pacing the Pac-12 in scoring defense (17.2 points), total defense (336.2 yards) and rushing defense (97.0 yards). In 11 of 14 games in 2012, Stanford held its opponent to 20 or fewer points, including a 14-point effort in the overtime win at top-ranked Oregon, who led the FBS with a 54.8 scoring average.

The 2012 Stanford defense held eight of 13 opponents under 100 yards rushing, and in a string of three consecutive games, the Cardinal recorded three of its top-10, single-game rushing defense performances in school history.

In 2011, Mason's first year as co-defensive coordinator, he teamed with Jason Tarver to mold Stanford into one of the Pac-12's top defensive units. That season, the unit ranked either first or second in the Pac-12 in six defensive categories, including rushing defense, third-down conversion defense, scoring defense, total defense, sacks and opponent first downs. Stanford finished third nationally in rushing defense. Mason joined the Cardinal staff in 2010, serving as secondary coach under then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Mason's 2010 secondary, which featured three players now in the NFL, was one of the team's most improved units, posting 18 interceptions.

At Stanford, Mason helped develop an array of Cardinal defensive standouts, including All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman of the world champion Seattle Seahawks, All-America defensive end Trent Murphy, All-America linebacker Shayne Skov, and All-Pacific 12 safety Ed Reynolds.

Prior to his arrival in Palo Alto, Mason served as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2007 to 2009, playing a vital role in the team ranking sixth in total defense in 2008 and 2009 as the Vikings won NFC North titles each season. Mason was introduced to the NFL coaching circles through the Minority Fellowship program in 1996 with the St. Louis Rams and also spent time with the coaching staffs of the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders. He joined the Vikings staff in 2007, where he worked with defensive backs coach Joe Woods.

Before joining the Vikings, Mason tutored wide receivers at Ohio University under head coach Frank Solich, helping the Bobcats improve from 4-7 in 2005 to a 9-5 campaign the following year that ended with an appearance in the GMAC Bowl. Mason spent the 2004 season as the wide receivers coach at New Mexico State, where he helped the Aggies lead the conference in passing.

During the 2002 campaign, Mason mentored the receivers and assisted with the special teams at Utah. The Utes also featured the NFL Draft's No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Alex Smith and eventual 7th round pick receiver Paris Warren.

Mason's move to Utah came after a three-year stint at Bucknell (1999-2001) in which he gained his first experience as a defensive assistant coach. At Bucknell, Mason served as defensive backs mentor for three straight winning Bison squads.

Mason's first three collegiate positions came as an offensive assistant at Mesa Community College (in 1994), Weber State (1995-96) and Idaho State (1997-98).

As a player, Mason was a two-year starter and four-year letterwinner at Northern Arizona. He was recruited to the university by Head Coach Larry Kentera, the grandfather of recent Vanderbilt receiver Kris Kentera.

During his NAU career, Mason was influenced by several outstanding coaches, including Kentera, Kansas City head coach Andy Reid, former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg, former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe, and former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell.

Mason earned a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Northern Arizona in 1993.

A native of Phoenix, Mason attended Camelback High School.

Derek and his wife, LeighAnne, have two daughters, Makenzie, 18, and Sydney, 16.

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