Commodores Begin Fall Practice

Head coach Derek Mason leads Vanderbilt toward opening game

by Chad Bishop

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 2020 Vanderbilt football season will be unlike any other in the program’s history – but that hasn’t tempered head coach Derek Mason’s excitement for another campaign on West End.

Mason and the Commodores hit the field Monday for the first practice of the preseason.

“Great challenges present great opportunities and for us, one of those opportunities for me right now is to have an opportunity to find exactly what this team is and what it needs to do to be successful in this environment,” Mason said Monday. “It’s about being accountable – accountable to one another, accountable to player coach, coach to player, everybody in this program to each other is where we got to go – of being focused on the task at hand. Everybody right now has a lot going on.”



Due to the global pandemic created by COVID-19, the start of the 2020 season has been delayed until Sept. 26 when the Commodores will play at Texas A&M. That decision also delayed the start of fall camp until Monday.

But what hasn’t changed is Vandy’s determination to improve on a 3-9 season with a relatively new-look roster and two new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

“This thing is going to be about team – who do you have on the roster, who’s available to you?” Mason said. “And it’s about those guys being accountable to one another and helping each other get to the other side and just continuing to be focused, understanding that we do need to be united in our cause and how practice and how we function.

“Then from there it’s just keeping everyone heathy and safe. That’s the important thing, that people understand that they’re safe and that they can get the work done.”



Under the direction of offensive coordinator Todd Fitch, Vanderbilt’s offense will have a new quarterback – four student-athletes are vying for playing time there – and a new starting running back as well as multiple new starters across the offensive two-deep. Mason said the quartet of QBs got plenty of repetitions Monday and will continue to do as fall camp continues.

Defensively, for defensive coordinator Ted Roof, the Dores have a lot of options to work with when it comes to a starting lineup.

“We’re better on the front end in terms of depth and extremely deep on the back end,” Mason said. “So when you start to look at what we have, it’s more of a secondary-driven defense now in terms of what it looks like with guys that are hybrid players playing inside.

“We got a lot of football players here that need to step on the field. There are guys athletically that fit the mold and are going to be extremely functional in this new-look defense. Now it’s just about getting reps and getting guys ready to play.”

Vanderbilt will continue to practice this week and in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 26 opener. It will do that while it also continues to monitor the safety and well-being of every student-athlete associated with the program.

“I told our student-athletes just continue to be where your feet are and focus on what’s in front of you,” Mason said. “Focused on the days, let’s put good work on top of good work, let’s be united in this process. United in how we see who we want to be in 2020, united in the work that we’re trying to get done and really united in our cause to make sure we can be the best team we can be in 2020. I’ve laid that out.

“I believe these guys are definitely committed to that process and we’ve talked about the health, safety and welfare of this ball club and that’s my responsibility with all the senior staff around me.”

Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for Follow him @MrChadBishop.