Derek Mason displayed a quiet confidence while previewing this week's Texas A&M, suggesting that the key to a win over the Aggies is a stout run defense. That's a good sign for a Vanderbilt team that ranks 21st in the country when it comes to stopping the run in 2015.
Mason, wearing a shirt with "Dominate the Day" written in big block letters, didn't hesitate when it came to breaking down what the Commodores need to do to beat Texas A&M on Saturday.
They've got guys with size that can run the football. In their wins this year they've been dominant in the run game. In their losses, they've struggled a little bit in the run game. When you look at what we did last week, we put some bad stuff on tape. So, getting back on Sunday it's about fixing issues, because they have the weaponry, quarterbacks, running backs, and even receivers - one being Christian Kirk and [Ricky] Seals-Jones - those guys can put you on ESPN real quick.
The thing that we have to do is stop the run. Be diligent, get them behind the chains. Make these guys somewhat one-dimensional.
He also addressed the issues that a struggling Vandy offense could have against a tough Aggie defense.
They play hard. They've been opportunistic. It's a sack factory.
We have to have a balance between the run and the pass. We have to stay on schedule. We have to make sure we don't hurt ourselves with our early penalties.
Mason's first question landed on a sore topic as of late - special teams. Reporters asked what his team can do to stop explosive A&M returner Christian Kirk.
Cover better. Kick it away from him. I'm going to challenge our guys to cover. You start there.
I've known Christian Kirk for a long time. I remember trying to recruit him...He's been dynamic for a long time.
He then addressed his tailback. Ralph Webb has earned 107 carries in Vanderbilt's last four games, prompting a question about whether or not the team will cut back on his workload. Mason praised the team's training staff for their work in helping the Commodores recover after games, but still singled out Webb.
What Ralph told me today was that he needs to jump in the ice tub. He's been going at it pretty hard, and I think at the end of the day he knows where we're at in the season, he's got to continue to push. So all of those guys are jumping into the ice tubs. It's just that time of year.
One player who may not need as much ice time is freshman quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Shurmur played in only his third game of the season last week but improved to 2-1 as the team's starting quarterback.
I thought Kyle took some steps. Still got a long way to go. We're young at that position. Still trying to get better. I was proud of the offensive line, for the most part, keeping him upright.
He's able to focus on the reads and not worry about the pass rush as much. I thought Kyle delivered some balls, we had some opportunities to make some more plays, we left some production out there. For us now, it's just getting back to practicing and making sure that we can execute.
Mason also addressed a goal line defense that shut Kentucky out on drives that gave the Wildcats 1st-and-goal possessions at the VU 1 and 3-yard lines.
Calls are just calls. Guys gotta make it come alive.
We talk about defending a blade of glass. The difference between winning and losing in football, it's a game of inches. These guys are beginning to understand exactly what situational football is. It wins games...I think it has more to do with their mentality now. They believe in what the structure is, and they're working extremely hard to make sure they don't give it up.
Here's Mason's press conference in full, courtesy of VUCommodores.com: