Derek Mason addressed the press on Tuesday in advance of Vanderbilt’s second game of the season against Nevada on Saturday at 11 AM CT. First, we have a new depth chart:
There aren’t a ton of changes of significance on this week’s depth chart. Cam Johnson and C.J. Bolar now have the “OR” designation as the second-string wide receiver, as do Trey Ellis and Donaven Tennyson at the other receiver spot. The three-headed monster at running back continues; on the other side of the ball, Rutger Reitmaier and Stone Edwards no longer have the “or” designation at defensive lineman, and for whatever it’s worth, Tae Daley and Frank Coppet are flipped at the safety spot opposite LaDarius Wiley. On Zaire Jones, Mason said “he’ll be back when he’s back, but he’s definitely suspended.”
As far as the press conference goes, Mason opened with what he called an “inside joke” about whether it’s pronounced “Ne-vaaa-da” or “Ne-VAH-da.” (Side note: I was aware that locals pronounce it with the former pronunciation, which makes it easy to spot tourists and transplants.) Derek Mason thinks Nevada is going to be a confident bunch after putting up 72 points on Portland State last week, and thinks the Wolf Pack will bring a different challenge with a mobile quarterback.
Mason thought that the team we saw in the second half of the MTSU game was the team that they were expecting to see this year. It’s always hard to dissemble the coachspeak; oftentimes, coaches don’t want to come out and say that their team is bad (unless it’s year one of an obvious rebuild), but Mason’s own assessment of his team a month ago seemed to be very different from the assessment offered by many outside the program.
He talked a bit about missing LaDarius Wiley and Zaire Jones on Saturday, and Mason even admitted that the referees made the right call by ejecting Wiley for targeting and used it as a teaching moment for the team. He briefly mentioned McLane Mannix, the former Vanderbilt commit who’s now at Nevada, and says that Nevada wound up being the right fit for him. Vanderbilt apparently saw Mannix as a running back, but he’s able to play receiver at Nevada.
Mason really likes his stable of running backs. Considering how high the staff is on Ke’Shawn Vaughn, it’s saying something that he’s splitting carries with Khari Blasingame and Jamauri Wakefield.
He really likes the way the defensive line is playing, and noted the improvements by Cameron Tidd and Drew Birchmeier over the offseason. (He also didn’t even attempt to pronounce “Odeyingbo.”)
As Mason said at SEC Media Days, he really likes the depth on this team, particularly in the linebacking corps. That was on display on Saturday night with Kenny Hebert and Brayden DeVault-Smith playing significant roles.
Mason said that a lot of the sacks on Saturday came from one-on-ones, and not from tricky defensive alignments. Specifically, Kenny Hebert won a lot of one-on-one matchups against MTSU.