If someone had said three years ago that the new head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores had a lot to live up to, they might have gotten some strange looks. After all, this was a football program that hadn’t won much at all over the past 30 years. From 1983 until 2010, Vanderbilt football produced just one winning season.
Yet new head coach Derek Mason faces a tough challenge in his first head coaching position. That’s because of what happened over the past three seasons under former head coach James Franklin, who left to take the head coaching job with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Franklin worked wonders in Nashville. He produced three straight winning seasons, and took the Commodores to three straight bowl games. Prior to Franklin’s arrival in Nashville, Vanderbilt had been to four bowl games. Ever.
As head coach of the perennial doormat of the Southeastern Conference, Franklin totally changed the mindset of the program. He recruited better players. He challenged the administration to produce better facilities. And, most importantly, he won games.
Franklin stood up to some of the SEC’s biggest programs and went toe-to-toe with them. His teams beat the Tennessee Volunteers two out of three times, and also registered victories over the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs last season.
Now Mason, a former assistant with the Stanford Cardinal, must keep the momentum going in Nashville. Mason will have a tough challenge in his first season, as he must replace his starting quarterback (Austyn Carta-Samuels) and his best offensive weapon, wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
Mason appears to be up to the challenge, but he will have a more difficult time at Vanderbilt than he would have if there had not been a James Franklin in Nashville.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.