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Vanderbilt players share what it’s like to play for Auburn defensive coordinator Derek Mason
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Vanderbilt players share what it’s like to play for Auburn defensive coordinator Derek Mason

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BIRMINGHAM — Although Derek Mason is now longer at Vanderbilt, Commodores players Daevion Davis and Bradley Ashmore are still rooting for their former head coach.

Davis and Ashmore discussed their relationships with Mason at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. Both described the first-year Auburn defensive coordinator as a positive influence during their time in Vanderbilt and as someone they want to see succeed in his new role with the Tigers.

“My experience with coach Derek Mason was awesome. He recruited me pretty heavily, and I love the guy,” said Davis, who is a junior defensive lineman. “He was a fair guy, a great dude, very enthusiastic and loved the game, so I think Auburn got a great deal with that. He’ll go in there and coach guys up real hard and get the best out of them, so that’s great for them.”

Ashmore only played one year for Mason at Vanderbilt, but it wound up being a monumental one for him.

Ashmore played in all nine of the Commodores’ games last fall as a true freshman offensive lineman, which included five starts. Ashmore credited Mason for being the one who recruited him to Vanderbilt and for making an impact during his adjustment to playing at the collegiate level.

“I have a lot of good memories with Coach, and he was a great guy the entire time. Great on-the-field coach, great off-the-field coach,” Ashmore said. “He brought great energy every day and was a good guy to have in your building. Nothing but good things to say about him. I’m excited to see what he does at Auburn.”

Mason posted a 27-55 record over his seven seasons with the Commodores during a stretch that saw the team make two bowl appearances and beat rival Tennessee in three straight meetings from 2016-18.

Mason became well-revered in the conference for his defensive mind and helped several Commodores move on to the NFL, including linebacker Zach Cunningham, defensive back Joejuan Williams and defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo.

“I give him the utmost credit. Dude polished me so much. I was so blessed to have him as my head coach, defensive coordinator and corners coach for my first two years,” Williams said in January. “He taught me a lot of tools of the game that I still use today. He really fine-tuned me and I feel like got me ready for the league. From a defensive back perspective, that’s what I can say about that. He knows what he’s talking about.”

Mason takes on the task of rebuilding an Auburn defense that took a step back in 2020 after graduating several key playmakers from the previous team. The Tigers gave up 406 yards per game last fall in Kevin Steele’s fifth and final season as defensive coordinator.

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