One day after head coach Derek Mason’s most successful recruiting period came to a close, Vanderbilt Football continued to upgrade the program for the 2018 season, adding four new assistant coaches to Mason’s coaching staff.
Jason Tarver was hired as defensive coordinator, while Shawn Mennenga was hired as special teams coordinator. In addition, Mason also brought in Aaron Moorehead as wide receivers coach and Terrence Brown as cornerbacks coach.
Tarver joins the Commodores after most recently working as a senior defensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers. Prior to that tenure with the team, he was a member of the staff in a variety of roles from 2001-10. Tarver went across the Bay to join the Oakland Raiders as defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014 before re-joining the 49ers.
There’s a Mason connection as well, as the two coached together as co-defensive coordinators for the Stanford Cardinal in 2011.
“Jason is as smart a football coach as I’ve had the chance to be around. We had a chance to work together at Stanford and had the chance to partner up and put together some pretty good defenses,” Mason said in a press release. “He makes complex football seem real easy. At this level you have to get it to the [student-athletes] fast, quick and have them believe it. His presence from the NFL will translate to where we’re at here at Vanderbilt. He’s extremely bright. He’s charismatic. His energy is going to be infectious for this group.”
Tarver will take defensive coordinator responsibilities from Mason himself, who has taken on the role on top of his head coaching duties since 2015.
Mennenga replaces Jeff Genyk on special teams. He has spent the last seven seasons as the special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Despite an 0-16 season in 2017, Mennenga’s unit had a strong year, finishing seventh in the NFL in punting average and kickoff coverage, as well as eighth in kickoff return average.
“Shawn brings NFL experience, seven years with the Cleveland Browns,” Mason said. “He’s bright, he’s organized and he’s a great teacher and can make football really simple real fast to let guys play fast.”
Moorehead replaces former receivers coach Cortez Hankton, who will reportedly join Kirby Smart’s coaching staff at Georgia. Under Moorehead, receivers like Christian Kirk developed into dynamic NFL prospects. He also has coached at Virginia Tech and Stanford, where he met Mason. Prior to coaching in the college ranks, Moorehead was a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, helping them to a Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XLI.
“Aaron is real interesting when you look at his career,” Mason said. “He was a walk-on at Illinois, earned a scholarship, undrafted free agent, winds up playing five years in the NFL with the Colts and wins a Super Bowl. He’s a hard worker that understands the game. He was raised in the game, his dad played in the NFL. Once [Aaron] was done playing in the NFL, he came to Stanford to be a graduate assistant and I had a chance to work with him and see his work ethic. He’s a true teacher and gets guys to play at a high level.”
Finally, Brown joins the staff after spending the last three seasons as a graduate assistant for the Washington Huskies. This past season, the Huskies led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and became co-champions of the North Division of the conference en route to a Fiesta Bowl appearance. He played for Mason at Stanford as a cornerback.
“Terrence is someone who played at a high level for me at Stanford, he was on the teams that played in the 2010 Orange Bowl, 2011 Fiesta Bowl and 2012 Rose Bowl,” Mason said. “His football IQ then was noticeable. He’s been at the University of Washington as a young coach getting their corners to play well. Washington has been in the top 20 in defense [nationally] the last two years. He understands the making and the dynamic of teaching corners and that’s important to me. He’s one of mine but he’s taken it to the next level. I expect to see tremendous growth from our corners in 2018 and he’s the right guy.”
Vanderbilt is coming off a five-win season in which the team missed a bowl game for just the third time since 2011. The team begins spring ball later this month.