MOBILE, Ala. – Former Vanderbilt offensive tackle Will Holden considers Derek Mason’s reported extension to be a well-deserved development.
“Coach Mason is doing a great job at Vandy,” Holden told SEC Country when speaking about the Commodores’ coach after a Senior Bowl practice Thursday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “Obviously, he’s building the program right. He’s doing the right things. The guys are buying into the process. I mean, he’s deserving of (the extension).
“He cares about us. I’m thankful that I was able to be a part of that program under his leadership. So that’s well-deserved. I wish that team the best. They’re going to do well next year. Coach Mason is the right guy to lead them, too.”
Earlier Thursday, a report from The Tennessean’s Adam Sparks stated that Vanderbilt was working on a contract extension for Mason, who led the Commodores to a 6-7 record this past season, his best since arriving in Nashville prior to the 2014 campaign. A university release announcing the news is expected to come later Thursday, per Sparks.
Holden, who played for Vanderbilt from 2013-16, is the Commodores’ lone representative at the Senior Bowl. He played in each game this past season and extended his consecutive starts streak at tackle to 37 games. Holden was named to the second-team All-SEC squad, as voted by league coaches.
“Coach Mason, he’s a players’ coach,” Holden said. “He loves his kids. The kids love him back. When that happens, the culture grows.
“He’s doing it the right way. So just doing it the right way, and buying into the kids and the kids buying into him, that’s how our program is going to grow, because at Vanderbilt it’s hard to get the five-star recruits. But we get the right kids, and he’s doing it the right way.”
Holden said the high point for him this past season was a 45-34 victory over Tennessee on Nov. 26. Vanderbilt closed with a 41-17 loss to North Carolina State in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26. It marked the Commodores’ first bowl appearance since playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl to cap the 2013 season.
Mason is 13-24 in three seasons with Vanderbilt. With his former coach reportedly primed to receive an extension, Holden expects more progress to be made soon.
“The sky is the limit,” Holden said of Vanderbilt under Mason. “You’ve seen at Stanford how they’ve built it up. They don’t get five-star recruits, but they do it the right way. And that’s what we’re doing. I’m very happy that I was a part of that program.”