By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Fresh off an opening win against Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt faced the media on Tuesday to preview its home opener against Alabama A&M this Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.
Head coach Derek Mason, safety Ryan White and linebacker Charles Wright took to the microphone to recap MTSU and look ahead to the Bulldogs.
Here's what they had to say:
Mason praised Alabama A&M as a "much improved" team and referenced Howard's upset of UNLV last weekend as reason to respect every opponent. "When we go out to practice, Alabama or Alabama A&M, it's all the same. We have to be about the work."
Mason said Vanderbilt was at its best vs. MTSU with a balanced offense early, but it became too one-dimensional in the second half. Indeed, the Dores recorded 245 of their 372 total yards and 21 of their 28 points before halftime. "I just thought we left a lot out there on Saturday night... I thought we became stagnant at times in that ballgame."
QB Kyle Shurmur threw for 296 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown passes against MTSU. Mason said he was impressed with Shurmur's management of the game and said the junior has All-SEC potential. "Potential? Absolutely. But where he is right now is, he just wants to win games. He's just worried about being consistent."
Linebacker Charles Wright notched three sacks in his first-career start last Saturday. Last season Wright was a role player, and now Wright is the first Vanderbilt defender to record three sacks in a game since 2012. "You guys are just learning about Charles Wright, but Charles Wright's always been here. It's just his time," Mason said.
Mason gave Vanderbilt's special teams a C-minus grade after MTSU. The coach noted mistakes in kick coverage and Tommy Openshaw's missed field goal. "Tommy has had as good a preseason or camp as we've expected. On that particular kick, he pushed one right."
Vanderbilt recorded five sacks vs. MTSU, its most as a team since 2013. That's good news for a squad that had an SEC-low 15 sacks last fall. "Coach Mason doesn't like to be last in anything," Wright said. "He wanted us to be held to a higher standard."
White said Vanderbilt's defense has not been surprised by Wright's emergence as a pass-rusher. "We know that Coach Mason recruits great players, and when it's anyone's time, they're able to step up and do it anytime," White said. "Chuck took advantage of his opportunity."
Zac Ellis is the Writer and Digital Media Editor for Vanderbilt Athletics. Check out his story archive and follow him on Twitter here.