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The Three-Headed Monster: Making sense of Vanderbilt’s backfield

Aug+22%2C+2014%3A+Vanderbilt%27s+head+football+coach%2C+Derek+Mason%2C+speaks+to+students+about+the+upcoming+season+during+the+VPB+Palooza+in+the+SLC.
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The Three-Headed Monster: Making sense of Vanderbilt’s backfield

Aug 22, 2014: Vanderbilt's head football coach, Derek Mason, speaks to students about the upcoming season during the VPB Palooza in the SLC.

Aug 22, 2014: Vanderbilt's head football coach, Derek Mason, speaks to students about the upcoming season during the VPB Palooza in the SLC.

Alec Myszka

Aug 22, 2014: Vanderbilt's head football coach, Derek Mason, speaks to students about the upcoming season during the VPB Palooza in the SLC.

Alec Myszka

Alec Myszka

Aug 22, 2014: Vanderbilt's head football coach, Derek Mason, speaks to students about the upcoming season during the VPB Palooza in the SLC.

Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

“Football season”, coach Derek Mason smiled. “It’s good to be back. Back on the grind.”

Derek Mason addressed the media on Tuesday morning to talk about his team’s upcoming matchup against the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University. As copies of the depth chart were passed around, many eyes were focused on one glaring inconsistency. Most positions named a clear-cut starter, with backups listed in order of Mason’s preference. This was not the case at running back.

Next to one of the most important positions on the field, it said the following: “Khari Blasingame or Ke’Shawn Vaughn or Jamauri Wakefield”.

That really doesn’t tell us much. Quite frankly, it defeats the purpose of having a depth chart.

Minutes after addressing the talented “three-headed monster” running back approach of Middle Tennessee, Mason was asked about his own trio. The prospect of having a running back by committee is quite promising, but not something the Commodores have much experience with.

The past four years have been the Ralph Webb show; the Commodore great finished his career rushing for over 4,000 yards, good for 6th in SEC history, along with 32 touchdowns. It’s been a while since the starter at the running back position was in question.

The question was simple from WSMV’s Chris Harris: “Coach, about your running back by committee, has anyone made a case to be the head of the committee yet?”

Somehow, the answer was even simpler. “I think they’re all dudes,” Mason said with a grin.

He did continue, but the response didn’t indicate any clear-cut favorite to win the battle.

“I feel comfortable with any of those guys lining up at tailback,” Mason said with confidence.

In reality, each of the running backs brings a different package to the table, so Mason has a reason to feel comfortable.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a Nashville native, spent two years at the University of Illinois before coming back home to Vanderbilt. Vaughn broke out as a freshman, but after receiving the award for the Offense’s Newcomer of the Year, his sophomore year did not yield the same results.

Fortunately, Vaughn is gifted with the size (5-foot-10, 215 pounds) to be a reliable back in the SEC and now that he’s sat out a full season due to transfer rules, he is eligible to play. Mason has been happy with the results thus far, noting that “Vaughn is the beast we thought he was.”

Khari Blasingame is another back that Mason feels will “have a great year”, which comes as no surprise. Blasingame has been a steady contributor on special teams and showed glimpses of his offensive prowess last year. The fifth-year student was given the starting nod against Alabama A&M to help gain some experience, but many expected Blasingame and Vaughn to take majority of the carries. That said, Vanderbilt’s backfield isn’t quite as simple as a two-back rotation.

Jamauri Wakefield has turned some heads as of late, so fans can expect him in the mix against MTSU. Wakefield is a redshirt sophomore who saw very limited action last season, but Mason said he’s had a “tremendous” camp.

In typical Derek Mason fashion, he even brought up freshman Ja’Veon Marlow and veteran back Josh Crawford in the conversation, two names not listed on the depth chart.

“I feel good about the five running backs we have, so let’s see how many of those guys will see playing time. It’s going to go to the hot man.”

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About the Writer
Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

Simon Gibbs (‘21) is a senior writer for the sports section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is planning on majoring in Human and Organizational Development...

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