Derek Mason

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SEC rolls out four-day media day schedule

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The SEC may be packing up their media day extravaganza and moving from Alabama to Atlanta, but this year’s media day schedule shows the SEC will still carefully roll out plenty of storylines over the course of a four-day love fest for the conference.

The SEC is setting up shop at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which feels like a great landing spot for the new media day fun for the SEC. The conference has established Atlanta as a destination point for the end of the regular season and the city just played host to the first College Football Playoff national championship game between two teams from the same conference, the SEC (Alabama and Georgia). So why not kickstart a new football season with the media in Atlanta too?

New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher will be the headline act for the first of the four media days for the SEC. Fisher will make his SEC Media Days debut as head coach of the Aggies on Monday, July 16. Other coaches speaking that day will be LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Day 2 will be an interesting one with Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the spotlight coming off the SEC championship last fall and new Florida head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media for the first time as the Gators coach, although the former Mississippi State head coach is no stranger to the SEC media day circuit by now. Day 2 will also be the first SEC Media Day introduction for new Arkansas head coach Chad Morris and second-year Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke (Luke took over as head coach in Oxford after SEC Media Days last summer following the removal of Hugh Freeze not long after media days).

But when is Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaking, you ask? Day 3 (Wed., July 18 for those keeping track). Saban headlines the third day of the media day event for the SEC. Two other coaches speaking that day will be new head coaches in the SEC with former Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt representing Tennessee and Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State stepping to the SEC podium for the first time. Missouri’s Barry Odom is also scheduled on day three. Day 4 will feature Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, South Carolina’s Will Muschamp, and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Player representatives for each school in addition to any other speakers will be announced at a later time.

Vanderbilt suspends three players connected to parking lot shooting incident

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Days after two Vanderbilt football players were shot in an incident involving a stolen phone, head coach Derek Mason has suspended three players connected to the incident. Defensive backs Tae Daley and Frank Coppet and wide receiver Donaven Tennyson have all been indefinitely suspended from all football activities in Nashville.

Daley and Coppet were shot outside a Nashville Target on Monday night. Neither player suffered what is considered a critical injury, which is good to hear, but the entire incident centering around a meeting in which Tennyson was attempting to recover a cellphone that had been stolen from him. Tennyson brought his teammates with him in what has been described by authorities as “an ill-conceived plan.”

Mason clearly agreed.

No arrests have been made, but police are continuing to work the case to identify the shooters.

Extension makes Gary Pinkel SEC’s 10th $4 million coach

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Following a second straight SEC East Division championship in just its third year in the SEC, Missouri has extended the contract of head coach Gary Pinkel and rewarded him with a nice bump in pay. Pinkel’s contract has been extended through 2021 with a guaranteed salary of $4.02 million.

Cha-ching.

The investment in Pinkel seems to have been a long time coming, as Pinkel may have exceeded many expectations for Missouri since making the transition from the Big 12 to the SEC.

Pinkel was hired by Missouri in 2001 after a successful stint at Toledo. Since arriving in Columbia, Pinkel is 113-66 with six bowl victories, including three in the last four seasons. After going 5-7 in Missouri’s first season in the SEC after leaving the Big 12, Pinkel coached Missouri to two consecutive SEC East Division championships and appearances in the SEC Championship Game.

If you are wondering how many coaches are left in the SEC not receiving $4 million, the number is apparently down to four; Jim McElwain (Florida), Derek Mason (Vanderbilt), Mike Stoops (Kentucky) and Butch Jones (Tennessee).

Derek Mason puts his coaching vision in focus at Vandy

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Vanderbilt completed the coaching staff for Derek Mason and his second season on Monday with the addition of Cortez Hankton as wide receivers coach. The former NFL receiver comes to Vanderbilt from Dartmouth.

“Cortez is simply one of the brightest, most impressive young coaches in college football,” Mason said in a statement released by Vanderbilt Monday. “He is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff.”

For Mason, the addition of Hankton allows him to move forward into year two as a head coach with a staff he has full confidence can and will buy into his vision for the program, and thrive selling it on the recruiting trails and in practices.

“All these guys have one thing in common. They embody my vision for Vanderbilt football,” Mason told ESPN.com on Monday. “I can already see the changes paying dividends. It’s never easy when you make changes, but what you have to look at is the program and what it looks like moving forward. It didn’t look like good football last season.”

Vanderbilt recently hired former Wisconsin assistant Andy Ludwig to be the new offensive coordinator, and Mason stated he will be taking control of the defense in 2014.

Mason’s debut season as a head coach at Vanderbilt in 2014 was a rough experience, but not one that will break down the tough-minded and determined Mason. Vanderbilt was left with a bare cupboard after James Franklin bolted out of town to take the Penn State job a year ago.

It is far too early to suggest Mason is not cut out for the job of head coach, but year two at Vanderbilt will need to see some changes on the field. College football programs can have short leashes when things are not going well, and few jobs are guaranteed to be safe. Another rough season may not be the end of the line for Mason so quickly, but with Tennessee improving and Florida expected to rebound in the same division as a somewhat consistent Georgia and perhaps Missouri, the pressure to keep pace could continue in 2015.

Vandy adds new OC, but Derek Mason will call the defensive shots

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Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will not add a defensive coordinator to his staff in 2015. Instead, the former Stanford defensive coordinator will take on the responsibility himself. He will, however, have someone else run the offense. That will be former Wisconsin assistant Andy Ludwig.

Mason was known for his defensive coaching while at Stanford, working under David Shaw. Mason ascended to the role of co-defensive coordinator in 2011 after coaching the defensive backs for the Cardinal in 2010. He then was handed the role of defensive coordinator by Stanford for two seasons under Shaw. He did not have much left to work with when he took over as head coach at Vanderbilt, and the ceiling is still relatively low for the Commodores in 2015, but Mason was clearly not happy with the performance of his team in 2014 and now he is taking on more responsibility for whatever happens on the field in 2015.

Ludwig joins the Vanderbilt staff after two seasons in Madison under Gary Andersen‘s staff. Andersen left for Oregon State, which opened the door for a return for Wisconsin man Paul Chryst. Ludwig has plenty of offensive coordinator experience, having filled the role of offensive coordinator at a number of stops in his coaching career. Prior to his two seasons at Wisconsin, Ludwig was in charge of the offense at San Diego State, California, Utah, Oregon, Fresno State and Cal Poly. At Vanderbilt, Ludwig will also take control of the quarterback coaching, which he has done at multiple stops as well, including the past two years with Wisconsin.

Vanderbilt has been busy at shaking up the coaching staff this season, a disappointing one in Mason’s debut as a head coach. For the players at Vanderbilt, this will essentially be the third coaching staff in three years for the Commodores. Penn State head coach James Franklin took a number of assistants with him when he left the Vanderbilt program a year ago to coach the Nittany Lions. That left Mason with a lot of work to do, and the results this season were not positive.