The Vanderbilt Commodores football program is getting ready for the 2014 season after one of their best seasons in recent memory when they went 9-4 overall and 4-4 in SEC play a year ago.
The Commodores will enter the season under control of new head coach Derek Mason. Previously the defensive coordinator at Stanford since 2011, Mason led them to 2013 and 2014 appearances in the Rose Bowl and the Cardinal ranked among the NCAA national top 15 in defense for three consecutive years.
“What he preaches is SEC title and you don’t hear him talk about anything less,” said linebacker Adam Butler. “We don’t want to be complacent… that’s his message, and that’s what I love about him.”
The new coach has also brought a change to Vanderbilt’s defense.
“We switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, so we have a couple of guys changing position, but I feel like they are all making smooth transitions,” said junior safety Andrew Williamson.
This season the Commodores will have a total of 11 returning starters: six on offense, four on defense, and one on special teams. With quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who is 10th on the program’s single-season total offense chart gone, Mason is looking for a replacement.
Mason plans to keep the position competitive, but sophomore Patton Robinette, who saw action in 10 games last season including two against SEC opponents Florida and Texas A&M , is on his radar.
“Any time you have a young man who has played in games, it’s something you can’t replicate,” said Mason. “I think Robinette has the leg up, but what I want is a quarterback competition.”
Another key returner for the Commodores will be defensive end Caleb Azubike. Azubike ended last season with 10 tackles for loss and shared the team lead with four sacks.
“Now what he’s really working on is full comprehension of what we do and how we are going to move him around in order to find him in the match-ups we are going to need, especially when we have to rush the passer,” said Mason.
The junior defensive end has missed about a week of practice due to the death of his grandmother and Mason has not put a time on his return.
The Commodores will open their season on August 28th against the Temple Owls.
To hear more from Mason and the Commodores click below.