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How Derek Mason will teach defense at Vanderbilt

For a moment, let's go back to 2007. The stock market hasn't crashed yet, you've never heard of Twitter or Facebook and, best of all, Justin Bieber is still some unknown adolescent in Canada. Times are good.

Now imagine how hilarious this sentence would sound to you then: To keep its vibrant football program churning, Vanderbilt has hired Stanford's defensive coordinator as head coach in hopes of slowing down all the hot-as-lava SEC offenses it faces week after week.

Seven years later, here we are.

Fox Sports' Coy Wire traveled to Nashville to pick the brain of Derek Mason, the new top Commodore, to study how Mason's brand of defense will allow them to withstand the offensive onslaught of Missouri, Kentucky, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and the like. 

We're not going to spoil the whole thing (which is an excellent read), but here are some gems that help explain Mason's defensive philosophy.

On repping against no-huddle opponents - which Mason refers to as NASCAR - every week no matter the opponent: “Even if you’re playing Alabama – who does not run an up-tempo scheme – you have to have a period of practice that subjects the players to a fast pace. Over a period of time, you’ll create habits and muscle memory that will help you find success when you do face an up-tempo team.”

On preparing for no-huddle offenses in practice by throwing two separate offenses at the defense: “When we first started doing it, it looked like a cluster, but the more the players did it the more their mental capabilities grew. It started to become second nature to operate that fast. Eventually they could stay focused when they were tired and handle more responsibilities at a faster pace. Once each week, we would run 30 different plays at them in under 10 minutes, let them rest and then do it again.”

On getting your defenders exhausted - on purpose: “We push our players to the limit. We physically exhaust them, but then we train them to still be able to think and communicate after they have reached exhaustion.”

Read the full piece here.

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