After the 2014 season, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason decided he also was going to act as the team’s defensive coordinator. That has turned out to be a great decision.
In fact, CBS Sports analyst Rick Neuheisel has been quite impressed with the Commodores’ defense over the past two seasons, going so far as to suggest it might be the second-best defense in the SEC.
“He just fixed things overnight,” Neuheisel said on a CBS season-opening conference call on Thursday. “They have been as good as anybody, with maybe the exception of Alabama, on that side of the ball. It’s been fun to watch.”
Vanderbilt ended 2016 in impressive fashion, beating Ole Miss and in-state rival Tennessee to end the regular season and make its first bowl appearance since 2013, the year before Mason took over.
With their strong defense and momentum carrying over from last year, it’s easy to see how the Commodores could continue to improve in 2017.
“They’re going to be a tough out for everybody in the SEC,” Neuheisel said. “If they can use that as a springboard toward this season, there’s got to be a lot of reason for optimism.