South Carolina football: Derek Mason interviews for defensive coordinator job

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.Nas Vandy Olemiss 003
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason.Nas Vandy Olemiss 003 /

South Carolina football is searching for its next defensive coordinator.

New South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer announced seven members of his coaching staff over the weekend, a group that consists of three new hires and four holdovers from the previous year.

The Gamecocks seemed to be all but locked up on the offensive side of the ball, having put in place an offensive coordinator, tight ends coach, running backs coach, and line coach, but there’s been less movement on the defensive front.

As it stands, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and linebackers coach Mike Peterson are set to return to Columbia, but they don’t yet know who will be their coordinator.

They may know soon, though, as Josh Kendall from The Athletic reports that a big time candidate has interviewed for the opening with the Gamecocks.

Former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has spoken with Beamer and the Gamecock athletic administration regarding its defensive coordinator gig, and early feedback seems to be positive for South Carolina.

Mason, who’d been at the helm of the Commodore program since 2014, was let go amid a winless 2020 season. Despite his recent struggles at Vanderbilt, he is still considered to be one of the best defensive minds in college football. His Vanderbilt defenses ranked inside the SEC’s top five in scoring on two occasions.

Prior to a stop in Nashville, he was the defensive play caller at Stanford for three seasons. His units finished in the top 30 nationally in scoring all three years, with his last squad cracking the top ten.

Though the Gamecocks feel good about where things stand with Mason, it is worth noting that South Carolina is not his only suitor. LSU has had its defensive coordinator role open up, too, and the Gamecocks may be going head to head with the defending national champs for Mason’s services.

"“Right now, I’m listening to everybody and trying to take it all in. I’ve had some good conversations with some good people, and the biggest thing for me is making sure I’m finding the right fit. I know Shane Beamer is an excellent coach, an excellent teacher. I’m trying to make sure I can recharge my batteries and make sure I make decisions with a clear head so I can do the right job wherever I go.”"

One thing that may push South Carolina over the top is the fact that Beamer has money to spend on assistants. His $2.75 million salary is the lowest of any SEC head coach, leaving a larger pool to be spent on hiring big time coordinators. Mason also coaches the defensive backs, an area that South Carolina has still not made a hire.

While no timeline has been set, it seems that the Gamecocks should know where they stand over the next couple of weeks. If they were able to land Mason, it would be the homerun hire that Beamer promised to the fans when he was named head coach.