BRYAN - Vanderbilt is coming off a 6-7 season and their ninth bowl game appearance in program history. After SEC Media Days, the 'Dores were picked to finish last in the SEC East in 2019. Head Coach Derek Mason knows Vandy will often be overlooked, but he's okay with that.
"It goes probably back to my first year, 2014. We didn't do well and everybody says, okay, they're probably right back to same old Vandy. I think there's a bias about Vanderbilt and what we do. That's okay. When it's all said and done, that hasn't stopped players at Vanderbilt University from going to the NFL and getting degrees," said Mason.
Coach Mason's first head coaching job was with the Commodores, and the veteran players on the team have seen progression in Mason and the program the past five years.
"I think he has grown as a head coach by understanding his players. Understanding that you have to coach each player differently," said running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn.
"I mean, he was new to it, just like he was new to college football. There were times when he relied on himself more than he had to, and now you see him passing off some of the important responsibilities to some of the leadership and trusting us," added tight end Jared Pinkney.
"He's become more confident over time. You see him now and he's the face of the program. He's Derek Mason," exclaimed wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb.
Vanderbilt returns a star-studded offensive trio: Jared Pinkney, who led all tight ends in the SEC in receptions last year, wide receiver Kalijah Lipscomb, who led the entire SEC in receptions, and running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who led the SEC in yards per carry last season.
"Hot take. Ke'Shawn Vaughn is the best running back in the SEC. Point blank. Period," Lipscomb stated.
"Efficient... I think that goes without saying. When you have average like 8 yards a carry. He's getting the most out of every run that he can," said Pinkney.
With experience and talent returning at the skill positions, there's a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball. The 'Dores believe though they can make an impact this year on defense as well.
"I mean there's a guy who had 3 interceptions last year that nobody seems to be talking about. Frank Coppet. I think there's only one person in the whole conference that had more interceptions than him coming back," Pinkney remarked.
"I'm looking forward to seeing our defensive play. We had some younger guys last year that were just kind of finding themselves. I look forward to seeing them step into bigger roles this year," said Lipscomb.
Vanderbilt will immediately be put to the test to see what they're made of, as they host Georgia in week one.
2019 Vanderbilt Schedule:
Sat, Aug 31 vs Georgia
Sat, Sep 7 @ Purdue
Sat, Sep 21 vs LSU
Sat, Sep 28 vs N Illinois
Sat, Oct 5 @ Ole Miss
Sat, Oct 12 vs UNLV
Sat, Oct 19 vs Missouri
Sat, Nov 2 @ S Carolina
Sat, Nov 9 @ Florida
Sat, Nov 16 vs Kentucky
Sat, Nov 23 vs ETSU
Sat, Nov 30 @ Tennessee