For the three seasons when James Franklin was in Nashville, he was one of the most impressive coaches at the annual SEC Media Days. While he was never as -- colorful -- as his immediate predecessor, Robbie Caldwell, Franklin was direct, forceful and a favorite to win whichever day brought him to the podium. How would, the only new head coach in the SEC this year, measure up?
Pretty well. Mason isn't quite the showman and speaker that Franklin was, but he was still an impressive presenter. Standing up even straighter than Franklin -- no small feat -- and rarely moving at all aside from turning his head or gesturing with his arm, Mason was clear and direct in his answers. And he frequently talked with precision about football, a rarity for an even that is supposed to be focused on that. For example, when talking about up-tempo offenses:
In the SEC, it's moved, it's changed. I shouldn't say it's changed, the package has changed. When you look at a team like Auburn, how they run the football, it's no different than Alabama, they just do it a different way.
Really when it's all said and done, the packaging has changed, but the idea is still the same. Control the clock. Spurrier is doing the same thing. When you look, Coach Spurrier, Coach Miles, all the rest of these coaches, they truly understand what the game comes down to: possessions and points.
The similarities between Franklin and Mason don't end with their command of the stage. Mason is going to continue the recruiting pitch that worked so well for Franklin: "getting a world‑class education and playing in the best conference in the country and winning," in Mason's words. And like Franklin, Mason has a sense of conviction when he says it.
Mason also has some unconventional views on college football. And recruiting is probably not disconnected from at least one of them.
We don't believe in redshirting at Vanderbilt. What we'll do is we'll take out of that class of 22, we'll probably have 17 guys that will step on the field and play at some point in time this year.
Some of this is undoubtedly Mason's stated belief that he can build up depth and prevent off-field problems by throwing some playing time to freshmen. But it also serves as a recruiting pitch of a kind: Come to Vanderbilt and you get a chance to play immediately. Go to Alabama and you'll probably win -- but you also might end up buried on the depth chart.
It was a winning performance. But, as we mentioned, Vanderbilt has seen winning performances at SEC Media Days before, and some of the showmanship from Franklin now rubs at least one Vanderbilt player -- Adam Butler -- the wrong way.
He was a big camera guy. He loved the camera, absolutely. Coach Franklin was true, no doubt, but I feel like some of it was a little bit more than what it had to be. There was a little bit of acting going on.
So the new coach is similar to the old coach. But Vanderbilt fans are hoping that there's at least one difference between Mason and Franklin: How long the new coach hangs around.