Five things to know about Derek Mason, Oklahoma State's new defensive coordinator

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STILLWATER — Former Vanderbilt head coach and Auburn defensive coordinator Derek Mason is Oklahoma State’s new defensive coordinator, the school announced Wednesday morning.

Here are five things to know about Mason:

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1. Not Derrick Mason

While Derek Mason, 52, began his coaching career as a wide receivers coach, he is not to be confused with Derrick Mason, the 15-year NFL veteran who played for the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens.

Derek Mason was a college cornerback at Northern Arizona from 1989-92. He began coaching in 1994 as the receivers coach at Mesa (Arizona) Community College, where he spent just one season. His winding career journey did briefly take him to the NFL from 2007-09, when he was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings.

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2. Seven years at Vanderbilt

In 2014, Mason was hired to succeed current Penn State head coach James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Though Franklin had success, winning 24 games over three seasons, Mason couldn’t continue the upward trend for Vandy football.

The Commodores went 3-9 in his first season and 4-8 in his second, before breaking through and reaching a bowl game in 2015, finishing the season 6-7. Vandy went back to a bowl game in 2018 — another 6-7 season — but Mason won three games the next year, and went 0-8 in 2020 before he was fired.

Overall, he went 27-55 with a 10-46 record in Southeastern Conference play in his seven seasons as a head coach.

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3. Auburn success and style

Running a multiple-front defense, alternating between three-man and four-man defensive lines, Mason’s Auburn defense was solid in his first season with the program.

Auburn finished the year ranked 27th in scoring defense, allowing 21.8 points per game, and 29th against the run, giving up 128.1 yards per game. It was 37th in third down defense, allowing conversions on 35.8 percent of snaps, and 40th in sacks with 35 in 13 games. Auburn was 61st in total defense, giving up 373.8 yards per game, and 96th against the pass, allowing 245.8 yards per game.

Mason is expected to use the OSU defense that former defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and the staff developed over the past four years as the blueprint for what Mason will deploy with the Cowboys, according to PokesReport.com.

Mason reportedly made $1.5 million at Auburn last season, the first in a two-year contract. That annual salary figure is in the ballpark of what Oklahoma State was offering Jim Knowles before he accepted a larger offer from Ohio State. Details for Mason's contract have yet to become public.

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4. Defensive backs coach

When Mason has been a position coach, he has worked with cornerbacks or the entire secondary. That leaves Mason and head coach Mike Gundy with a unique situation to manage in terms of how the defensive staff will divide up positional coaching.

The current staff at OSU includes two defensive line coaches, Joe Bob Clements and Greg Richmond, and two defensive backs coaches, Tim Duffie, who handles cornerbacks, and Dan Hammerschmidt, who works with safeties.

Knowles was a linebacker coach, but did very little direct work specifically with the linebackers, instead managing the entire defense. Former graduate assistant Koy McFarland, who has left to join Knowles at Ohio State, was the primary linebacker coach.

With Mason’s hire, the Cowboys are at their limit of 10 on-field coaches, so they cannot add an additional person to coach linebackers, unless it’s in a graduate assistant role. Otherwise, one of the five defensive coaches will have to shift to linebackers.

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5. Crossing paths with Gundy

Mason has no direct connections to Oklahoma State or Gundy, but the two have crossed paths a couple of times.

First, Mason was the co-defensive coordinator at Stanford in the 2011 season, when Oklahoma State faced the Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys won 41-38 in overtime.

In January of 2020, Gundy and Mason shared a table for the coaches’ film room broadcast of the college football national championship game between LSU and Clemson. They were joined on the broadcast by then-TCU head coach Gary Patterson and Boston College’s Jeff Hafley.

Mason’s career has taken him to a variety of places at multiple levels of football, from junior-college to the NFL. After his one year at Mesa Community College, Mason’s resume starts to look more like a list of potential March Madness bracket-busters than football schools — places like Weber State, Idaho State, Bucknell and St. Mary’s, in addition to a one-year stop at Utah in 2002.

At Bucknell from 1999-2001, Mason got his first chance to return to the defensive side of the ball. At all of his previous stops, he had coached either receivers or running backs, but he coached defensive backs at Bucknell.

He handled receivers and special teams at Utah in 2002, but the next season, he was hired as the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator at St. Mary’s. He had stops at New Mexico State and Ohio over the next three years, coaching receivers at both places, before landing with the Vikings in 2007.

Since then, he has remained a defensive coach. He was hired to coach defensive backs at Stanford in 2010, got promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2011 and was alone as the defensive coordinator in 2012-13 until he was hired at Vanderbilt.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Five things to know about Derek Mason, OSU's new defensive coordinator