By (Sami Harb)

Hoover, Ala.- Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was the last of three head coaches to take his turn at the podium during the first day of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel.

Vanderbilt hasn’t experienced much success during Mason’s first two seasons in Nashville, Tennessee. In those two years, the Commodores have compiled a record of 7-17 including a 2-14 record in SEC play.

Mason hopes to lead the Commodores to an improved record in 2016 season and sees his team’s experience as a definite advantage to taking a step forward as a program next season.

“We have 15 returning starters and we have a lot of guys that have played significant time,” Mason said. “We’re extremely excited to see this group take the field.”

While Vanderbilt made strides in being competitive in conference games last season, one of Mason’s main themes during his time at the mic was that competing is no longer good enough for his team.

“This football team knows how to compete. It’s not about competing anymore, it’s about winning,” Mason said. “We had the great fortune to win one more game. For some here, that’s not monumental enough. That’s okay.”

A large factor in Vanderbilt’s effort to beef up the win column next season will be the play of sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who was recently named the Commodore’s starter for 2016. Last season, Shurmur appeared in five games, throwing for 503 yards and five touchdowns.

“Towards the end of the season you saw a youthful occasion for a young quarterback by the name of Kyle Shurmur step on the field and, I think, play some meaningful football in those last three or four games,” Mason said. “I have named Kyle Shurmur the starter. That’s what we are. That young man understands this team and he showed great character and leadership in the offseason.”

Returning to Vanderbilt’s offense next season is leading rusher running back Ralph Web, who led Vanderbilt by rushing for 1,152 yards last season, and establishing himself among the top running back’s in the conference for 2016. Webb certainly lacks no confidence when it comes to his position among the top rushers in the conference.

“I think I’m one of the best running backs in the SEC. I also play that way,” Webb said. “I don’t see myself any less.”

The strength Vanderbilt’s team last year was undoubtedly the defensive unit, which Mason revamped after choosing to not hire a defensive coordinator in his second year and take complete control of play-calling duties on defense. Mason announced that he would be retaining the role of defensive play-caller in addition to his head coaching duties for the 2016 season.

Along with his emphasis on winning rather than competing, Mason also stressed that the Commodores will be built around a “team-first” attitude.

“We don’t care about who’s standing on the hill, we don’t care about who takes the accolades,” Mason said. “It’s about this team collectively and what we need to do in order to move the needle and get up the hill.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports