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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 discusses kicking situation, game plan turnaround, scheduled facilities upgrades

With the rivalry game against Tennessee postponed and kicking lineup in quarantine, the Commodores reshuffled the week for Missouri—a year removed from being able to do so in upgraded locker rooms.

Following a 38-17 loss to Florida, the Commodores are looking ahead to an opponent they learned only on Monday afternoon they’d be playing: the Missouri Tigers. 

In Tuesday’s press conference, Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason discussed his approach to ensuring his team’s best kicking potential. Sarah Fuller, goalkeeper of the recently crowned SEC Champion Vanderbilt women’s soccer team, was reported yesterday to have practiced with the football team in a kicking capacity, as COVID-related quarantine and isolation absences have depleted the kicking lineup. 

“For us, every week is about getting to the practice field and making sure we put the best possible kicker out there,” Mason said, knowing about Fuller’s practicing and unable to hold back some laughter. “I gotta get out to practice and see what gets done, but hopefully I’ll have an update… on Thursday.” 

Juniors Pierson Cooke and Wes Farley were the only kickers listed on the depth chart released on the morning of Nov. 24. 

Mason also discussed some behind-the-scenes changes following the Southeastern Conference’s press release announcing the postponement of the Vanderbilt-Tennessee game. 

“Twenty-four hours ago, I was getting ready for rivalry week, and we quickly flipped the script, and at around 5:30 [p.m. on Monday], we found out we’d be playing Missouri,” Mason said. “Yesterday’s announcement of postponing our rivalry game was disappointing news for our student-athletes and their families… Our administration is working with the SEC to reschedule this game, to honor our seniors versus Tennessee for Senior Day.”

Mason, as with the delayed start to the season, seized the opportunity of extra time to prepare his team and improve game-planning. 

“We actually put off our morning practice and pushed it off to the afternoon since we’re not in classes so we could have a little more game-planning time to get our practice plans ready,” Mason said. “I feel really good about what we were able to put together in the last twenty hours. I think it’s a plan that hopefully attacks this Missouri team.” 

The Monday turnaround in game-planning wasn’t the only issue Mason had a plan in place for; advance-scouts already laid the foundation for scheming and “base-down” planning. 

“We had started some initial prep for Missouri, and then I got a day and a half into it, so we were able to look at some of the base-down stuff,” Mason said. “Generally, when you’re scouting and advance-scouting, the advance-scout people are always working two to three games ahead, so some of that information was already broken down.” 

With the academic week off for Thanksgiving, the plan for Saturday couldn’t go on without the plan for Thanksgiving. 

“In the past, it’s always been family-style with our team in terms of being able to have dinner, so our guys generally ate twice; they eat team dinner, then they would have an opportunity to go over [to] coaches’ homes and have a second dinner,” Mason said. “We just want to make sure that everyone feels like they’ve got a place to go.”

And a place for freshman quarterback Ken Seals it has been: Seals recorded his third game with 300+ passing yards in the loss to Florida. In contrast, Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak has only one such game. 

“I sort of see [Bazelak] as a young Ben Roethlisberger,” Mason said. “He stands tall and I think he’s got a big arm. He’s accurate. He’s confident. [He] and Ken [Seals] are a lot alike when you talk about their mannerisms. They don’t get too high. They don’t get too low. They know how to compete.” 

Vanderbilt’s practice facilities, which have seen sporadic upgrades when compared to the thirteen fellow SEC programs, are set to receive their biggest upgrades in years. 

“I’ve been here seven years, and we’re looking at finally moving towards upgrading our facilities. And I think a facilities plan is in place, and a locker room will be underway as soon as the season is over,” Mason said. 

Mason addressed how he believes the upgraded facilities will impact the future of the Vanderbilt football team. 

“In my time in seven years, we haven’t been able to do anything,” Mason said, alluding to the lack of facilities upgrades prior to the currently planned ones. “You’re going to see a lot of things on this campus change in the last year or in the next year. I think in this last year, you saw housing and some other things, but I think athletics—football and basketball, along with some other sports—will truly start to become a huge emphasis for this university.” 

Saturday’s Vanderbilt-Missouri matchup will air at 11:00 a.m. CST on SEC Network.

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About the Contributor
Basim Naim
Basim Naim, Former 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 .

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