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VOL. 40 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 16, 2016

The Mason file

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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.

Mason, who is wrapping up his third season at Vanderbilt, has 13-23 record (5-19 SEC) going into the Independence Bowl. The Commodores finished 6-6 this season to earn their first bowl bid since the 2013 season (technically 2014, played on Jan 4) and only the eighth overall.

After a 3-9 inaugural campaign, Mason announced he would serve as his own defensive coordinator. The move paid dividends in 2015, not so much in the record (4-8), but with a vastly improved unit finishing among the NCAA Top 30 in scoring defense, total defense, first downs allowed, red zone defense and third-down efficiency.

In 2016, the Commodores started 2-4 but finished with a 4-2 stretch run, including a win at Georgia and decisive season-ending home wins against Ole Miss and Tennessee with one of the SEC’s most improved offenses and a defense that held conference foes to a 20.2-point average.

Individually, the Commodores are led by all-time rushing leader Ralph Webb and quarterback Kyle Shurmur on offense and standout linebacker and Butkus Award finalist and All-America selection Zach Cunningham on defense.

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.

At Stanford, Mason helped develop an array of Cardinal defensive standouts, including All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman of the 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.

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 team lead the conference in passing. Before that, he was at St. Mary’s (2003), Utah (2002), Bucknell (1999-2001), Idaho State (1997-98), Weber State (1995-96) and Mesa CC (1994).

As a player, Mason was a two-year starter and four-year letter-winner 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.

Personal: A native of Phoenix, Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northern Arizona in 1993.

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

-- Compiled by Tom Wood; Source: Vanderbilt athletics

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