If you missed the first day of SEC Media Days, here are the highlights: Derek Mason was, by almost all accounts, impressive. I know, I know, that doesn't sound believable.
Derek Mason won Day 1 of #SECMD16, which is what you all saw coming. Btw, Dores are 4th best team in SEC East.— Patrick Schmidt (@PatrickASchmidt) July 11, 2016
Yeah, we're surprised too, and some people weren't impressed...
@KirkHerbstreit @CoachDerekMason let's be honest guys, Vandy sucks and will suck forever!— Proud American (@rockytopvol24) July 11, 2016
But I'm honestly not sure what you were expecting from that particular account. People who actually know things were impressed with Mason, for once.
#Vandy's Derek Mason seemed more confident at SECMD today. Seemed more like the guy I spoke to when he was running the D at Stanford.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 11, 2016
There's a new standard in Nashville.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) July 11, 2016
"You come to @VandyFootball to be great, not good." - Derek Mason #SECMD16 pic.twitter.com/U8HoHk2xua
Vandy HC Derek Mason: "Let's move away from 'we're smart kids on West End.' We're good football players, too."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 11, 2016
I just learned more about the linebacker position in 5 mins from Derek Mason than 7 previous years covering CFB.— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) July 11, 2016
Always love listenin to my guy @CoachDerekMason break down ball! His defense will keep Vandy in gms, but QB play & the offense the key.— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) July 11, 2016
Derek Mason impressive on the podium. Vandy could legitimately surprise this year. Defense should be outstanding.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) July 11, 2016
There were only a couple of negative views, and both were from the expected places.
Derek Mason needs to get out of Vanderbilt so he can give those quality quotes about a team that's relevant.— Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris) July 11, 2016
Derek Mason dropping JFK references into a question about his linebacking corps. It’s getting weird.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) July 11, 2016
The first diss came from Charlie Burris, who works for Fox Sports Knoxville; honestly, what the hell do you expect, him to admit that Vanderbilt could be good this year? The second is Dan Wolken, who (a) if anything tries too hard not to appear to be a Vanderbilt homer, and (b) works for USA Today, which is to journalism what Subway is to sandwiches: a ubiquitous outlet that consistently produces poor quality, and yet somehow is popular.
Mason talked some about recruiting as well, evidently in response to the fretting about why it took us until June to have a commitment on board:
Derek Mason on recruiting: "My eyes don't lie. The film lies. Anybody can put together a highlight tape. Anybody can look good in 7-on-7."— Josh Bean (@jbeanpoll) July 11, 2016
And he also let it be known that he doesn't mind if his players take up social causes that they're passionate about.
Derek Mason says student-athletes should use their platform for causes they believe in. 'It takes teamwork to make the dream work.'— Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) July 11, 2016
Vandy HC Derek Mason: "The platform for sports has always been there to speak to injustices ... If they speak intelligently."— Gene Sapakoff (@Sapakoff) July 11, 2016
In other words, July 11, 2016, marked the day when Derek Mason officially looked like the coach that at the very least I would like to see Vanderbilt employ. While I don't get too hung up on how a coach interacts with the media, we have to admit that Mason seems to be much more comfortable in his own skin now than he was a year or two ago.
Players Ralph Webb, Oren Burks, and Zach Cunningham were present as well, and Burks got a name-drop from SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey earlier in the day. They had some knowledge to drop as well.
Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb and S/OLB Oren Burks said the offense looks more in sync with Kyle Shurmur at QB. He's... https://t.co/WGrCu0DoVL— Edward Aschoff (@AschoffESPN) July 11, 2016
Zach Cunningham says the ceiling for Vandy is as high as they want it to be in 2016.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) July 11, 2016
Now, of course, we have to insert the obligatory reminder that SEC Media Days is not actually, you know, a football game, and we'll probably completely forget this performance if the performance on the football field is less than impressive. But at the very least, we made it through Media Days without our coach saying something dumb, and that's a win in and of itself.