This is not a knock on Derek Mason. Tennessee football just has to face lots of very good head coaches this year. Mason has taken the Vanderbilt Commodores to two bowl games in five years, including two of the last three years, and he has a three-game winning streak over the Vols.
However, his predecessor, James Franklin, had three straight postseason appearances and back to back nine-win seasons and top 25 finishes. Mason still has not finished a year with a winning record. So by any stretch of the imagination, Vandy has had a drop-off under him.
To be fair, holding Mason to Franklin’s standard at Vanderbilt is highly unfair. Franklin accomplished the impossible. Bobby Johnson’s track record towards the end is a more fair way to hold somebody to account, and Mason has been solid the last three years.
This year, though, he is really put to the test. Despite losing Kyle Shurmur at quarterback, Vanderbilt returns everybody else. And Ball State transfer Riley Neal along with transfer Deuce Wallace should be able to continue the program’s success at quarterback. So Mason could take a big leap in 2019, which would move him up this list for next year. He’s not there yet, though.