When you say the name Derek Mason to Vanderbilt fans you get one of two reactions.
"He ruined everything James Franklin did for this program, he should have been last season!"
"We should give Derek Mason the benefit of the doubt, because he has done a lot of great things for Vanderbilt."
No, I'm not ready for baseball or basketball season. I'm still in football season mode and to be quite honest, excitement is building for the Vanderbilt football program. By now you're either cussing me or you're curious on what I say next. Derek Mason is taking a path very similar to someone whose consider one of the best coaches in the game, at least within the top five of active coaches. He's taking a road similar to what Jim Harbaugh did. I decided to do a little research and I came up with some interesting numbers. If you base off what Harbaugh got recruiting wise to what Derek Mason has gotten...you'll see something incredibly similar. Fair warning, I couldn't find 247 records from 2007 so I'm having to use Rivals.
When taking this look you'll see something that just might blow your mind. The 2007 class, widely considered as "the class" that changed Stanford football, shares a lot of similarities with Vanderbilt's 2014 class. Let's take a look...
Stanford's Top 3 Recruits (2007)
Kellen Kiilsgaard- Quarterback- Auburn, WA ****- A kid who eventually ended up choosing baseball over football in the long run.
Coby Fleener- Tight End- Joliet, IL ***- This guy panned out pretty well and now he is catching passes for Andrew Luck on Sundays.
Matthew Masifilo- Defensive Line- Ewa Beach, HI ***- Another guy who was a big time player in the Pac-12 and is now bouncing around the NFL...currently with the Bucs.
Vanderbilt's Top 3 Recruits (2014)
Trent Sherfield- Defensive Back- Danville, IL ****- We all know the story here, he's now the best wide receiver on Vanderbilt's roster and it isn't even close.
Emmanuel Smith- Defensive Back- Murfreesboro, TN ****- He might have been better off sitting for a season, but so far he's a sophomore whose slowly finding his way in a very talented defense.
Nifae Lealao- Defensive Lineman- Sacramento, CA ****- Another guy who is slowly coming along on a talented defense.
I had to sneak that in somewhere...
By now you're probably wondering "okay, and...?" , which will bring me to my next point. The recruiting classes were ranked about the same in terms of overall grade. Here is a look at what Scout had each school ranked as...
2007- Ranked 51st overall
2008- Ranked 50th overall
2009- Ranked 20th overall
2014- Ranked 49th overall
2015- Ranked 48th overall
2016- Ranked 65th overall
Alright, obviously there is a big gap between 2009 and 2016 for the respective teams. I don't think Vanderbilt catches up due to the difference of scholarships and player rankings. But the point I was aiming for was more along the lines of the first two recruiting classes. Keep in mind both Mason and Harbaugh had the same amount of time at each school by this point. But surely that isn't all, is it? Not even close. Jim Harbaugh had an interesting turn of events his first couple of years at Stanford, in what was viewed by many as a culture change. Derek Mason had to bring the same thing to Vanderbilt, who was winning but had lost their ethics (I don't think I need to go deep into this). However, if you look closely you'll see something else that's very interesting about these two football coaches...
Jim Harbaugh went 4-8 his first season, followed by 5-7 his second season. Last year Derek Mason went 3-9 and so far he is 3-5 on the year. Even if he finishes 3-9 again this year the marks would be similar with a difference of only 3 games. Now before you guys get your panties in a wad, I am not suggesting that Jim Harbaugh is anything like Derek Mason or vice versa. What I am suggesting is, Derek Mason has taken this team on a very similar path as Jim Harbaugh had at Stanford. He followed the same blueprint and has been getting the same type of kids.
What does this mean for Vanderbilt in the long run? It could mean absolutely nothing, we could finish 2-10 next year, and everybody could be fired. Or Mason could finish next year in the 7-6 or even 8-5 range. What I am saying is that the process takes some time. I myself have grown impatient. I want to see results and I want to see them now. But the reality is, you've got a young team, a team that's getting big reps right now...just like Stanford. You've got a good group of coaches, guys who are working towards the same goal...just like Stanford. We are trying to highlight offensive linemen and tight ends as the sexy position, just like Stanford.
Now all we need to do is grow and win like Stanford.
I hinted at this a little bit earlier in the week, and I decided to pull the trigger on it. I'm opening it up for a complete Q&A session. If there is anything Vanderbilt is doing, or anything you'd like my take on I'm willing to answer it down below in the comments. All I need you to do is put Q&A in the subject bar to let me know that you're asking me a question and I'll answer them throughout the day. I'd appreciate it if the questions were kept about football only, maybe some recruiting or my opinion on certain things within the program. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the questions you come up with.