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Coach Mason Saw a Lot of Room for Improvement Saturday

OL, ST get passing grades, but not good ones

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NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Mason’s recent presser may be a sign of what heights this team may reach later this season. Vanderbilt’s win wasn’t big enough for the head coach, who had many points he saw for improvement going forward. Already frustrated by the performance Saturday night, Coach Mason commented that his frustrations lingered after the game and even while watching tape. The overall impression was that Vanderbilt left a lot out there.

Mason specifically commented that our special teams unit only earned themselves a C- against MTSU. When asked what they could do to get a better grade, Mason simply said, “All of it.” Coverages, creating lanes, and Tommy Openshaw being too tight on his kick were some of the things Mason pointed out as things to clean up. Overall, Mason wants the return unit to block better to take advantage and get better field position to start drives.

While Mason was happy with the Shurmur only getting sacked once, he was hard on our offensive line as well. MTSU’s consistent loading of the box was not an excuse, Mason asserted that there’s times they’re going to have to “enforce our will” and just run anyway. Like with the special teams unit Mason felt the unit played “ok”, giving them a C. Fundamentals and consistency were again a point for improvement that Mason said he wanted to address this week.

Some of the lack of substitutions were clarified as well. When asked about how long our LBs were in the game, Mason explained the need to give our ILBs all the reps he can. This is a point I happen to agree with because the guys there may have a lot of playtime, but moving to inside is a big change and giving them reps is important. Mason seemed happy with our depth at LBs, but still pushed for more, saying that he felt each one of them could have had 10-12 tackles.

Mason did have some positives he brought up yesterday. He singled out Kyle Shurmur’s growing role as a leader on the offense. Mason was happy with how Shurmur managed the game, and his awareness of incoming defenders during plays. Mason was also pleased with how Webb was involved in the passing game, something he had spent the offseason saying he wanted to happen.

It’s not uncommon for coaches to speak to all their squad’s mistakes, even after a win. Still, some of the people in the room seemed upset, continually questioning the sincerity and fairness of Mason’s critiques. Adam Sparks (correctly) pointed out that it’s an “old tactic” to get extra hard on players when preparing for vastly weaker teams. However, the players backed up that Mason is continuing to coach them hard, and Tuesday’s practice started to fix those problems. The team was on the same wavelength that despite the win being solid, they have a lot of things they could have done better.

Vanderbilt fans can be happy to see that neither Mason nor his squad is satisfied with how we played. They know that they’re going to have to step it up soon, as KSU is going to be the start of a hard stretch of games.