The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

Press Conference Notes: Mason acknowledges room to improve; five players return from injury and illness

Three offensive and two defensive players return to active status this week, giving the Commodores the edge they’ll need against the Gamecocks on Saturday.
Vanderbilt Football celebrates their bowl berth on December 2, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Madison Lindeman)

Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason, fresh off a 41-7 loss to the defending national champion LSU Tigers, opened Tuesday’s press conference acknowledging that the Commodores have room for improvement. 

“There’s a lot of opportunity in all three phases for improvement,” Mason said. “Offensively, [the] running game looks to be strong… we need production in the pass game.” 

And the passing game is exactly where production will be added, as it will for the running game and defensive backfield. 

“It’ll be great to get some of our guys back this week,” Mason added. 

Returning to the lineup for Saturday’s game against South Carolina are, on offense, running back Keyon Brooks and receivers James Bostic III and Devin Boddie Jr., and, on defense, cornerback Jalen Mahoney and safety Brendon Harris. 

Kicker Pierson Cooke, who missed a field goal from LSU’s 4-yard line, will also see the field on Saturday. Mason on Tuesday expressed confidence in the walk-on junior, Cooke, asserting he will start over scholarship kicker Javan Rice.

“Javan and Pierson are always competing in practice,” Mason said. “Right now, Pierson’s the best guy. We just need production.” 

Standout defensive back Donovan Kaufman, who almost single-handedly swayed the momentum of Saturday’s game with a 58-yard kick return in the first half, received pointed praise from his head coach.

“Kaufman was a guy we were gonna have a hard time keeping off the field,” Mason said. “He knows how to play the game. He has a true feel for how to play defense. Maybe in the future, you may see him step on the offensive side for a little bit.” 

COVID-related absences have rocked the Commodores in the past weeks, as at least five players have opted out of the 2020 season. But Mason remains optimistic, asserting that the players who have entered COVID protocols steadily improved. 

“95% of the players that we’ve had who’ve been under isolation and/or quarantined have been good when they’ve come back,” Mason added. “Overwhelmingly, it’s been positive for us.” 

Mason also revealed that Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Vanderbilt running back Ja’Veon Marlow, currently recovering from an ACL injury, talked about what it takes to be successful in SEC competition. 

“[Marlow] became much more of a worker,” Mason said. “[He] and Ke’Shawn had a good conversation about what it truly takes to be able to play at this level and about taking care of your body.” 

As with his team’s improvements, Mason exuded hopefulness for the Commodore’s home game against the Gamecocks this Saturday. 

“We need to win,” Mason, with a grin, prefaced after the morning’s first question. “Just like South Carolina does, we need to win. The opportunity is great.”

Leave a comment
About the Contributor
Basim Naim, Staff Writer
Basim Naim ('24) is from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a staff writer for the Sports section and is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health, and society and minoring in human and organizational development. His hometown and college-town teams — the Alabama Crimson Tide, Mississippi State Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores — have him covered from men’s disc golf to baseball. He can be reached at .

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments