Derek Mason Returns to the Game as Middle Tennessee State Head Coach

    The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders named Derek Mason as their new head coach, the program announced Wednesday morning.

    Derek Mason is back in the game, taking over as the new Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders head coach, the program announced Wednesday morning. Mason returns to the state of Tennessee where he held his only other prior head coaching role.

    Derek Mason Named Middle Tennessee State Head Coach

    Middle Tennessee State announced Wednesday morning that former Vanderbilt head coach Mason will become their new head coach. The announcement confirms reports that first surfaced Tuesday evening linking the defensive-minded coach to the Blue Raiders program.

    “We are ecstatic to welcome Coach Derek Mason to Middle Tennessee and the Blue Raider football program,” athletic director Chris Massaro announced.

    “With his experience as a head coach, his reputation for coaching fast, aggressive defenses, his strong reputation as a recruiter, and deep connections in college football to formulate an outstanding staff, Coach Mason’s vision for MTSU football fits exactly what we were looking for during our interview process.”

    “Coach Mason is no stranger to the mid-state community and we expect his connections to allow him and his staff to hit the ground running as our 15th head football coach.”

    Mason arrives in Murfreesboro after a year away from the sport. The Arizona native, who played cornerback collegiately for Northern Arizona before embarking on a coaching career, was last on the sidelines as the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator during the 2022 season. The Cowboys finished second in the Big 12 with 95.0 tackles for loss in his sole season in the role.

    Known for his defensive prowess, Mason rose to prominence on Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford staff between 2010 and 2013.

    Working firstly as a defensive back coach, harkening back to his playing career as a two-year starting cornerback, his promotion to defensive coordinator ensured that the Cardinal led the Pac-12 in scoring defense in successive seasons.

    His success there, which included being a finalist for the 2012 Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the nation, saw Mason earn his first head coaching role at Vanderbilt.

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    While in charge of the Commodores, Mason achieved several notable feats, including becoming the first head coach at the program to beat Tennessee in consecutive seasons since the mid-1920s. He also led Vanderbilt to two bowl games and helped make college football history when Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play for a Power Five program.

    However, Mason never managed to guide Vanderbilt back to the heights they’d ascended to under James Franklin, and after compiling an 0-8 record through the disruption of the 2020 college football season, he was relieved of his duties before the end of the year. He served as the defensive coordinator at Auburn in the year following his dismissal from the Commodores.

    Mason takes over at Middle Tennessee State following the departure of the long-tenured Rick Stockstill, who was fired after the Blue Raiders went 4-8 in the 2023 college football season.

    The loss of multiple starters — including standout defensive linemen Zaylin Wood, Marley Cook, and Richard Kinley II — who entered the transfer portal in the aftermath of Stockstill’s dismissal, makes the job a little more difficult but does offer the potential for molding the team in his image early on.

    Mason brings impressive defensive acumen to the job, knowledge of the recruiting scene in Tennessee, and, importantly, for a program looking to reestablish itself as a championship contender in a blossoming Conference USA, he adds significant Power Five and NFL experience.

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