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December 28, 2013

Derek Mason


Q.テつ I wanted to ask you about your perception of this program before this latest run.テつ It was a place you couldn't win, but every four years with a great senior (indiscernible).テつ How has that changed?テつ And your other coaching staff, what was your perception of Stanford football when you think back 10 years, you were in a different place?
COACH MASON:テつ You know, I've watched Stanford when I was at Saint Mary's College.テつ That's been a while ago.テつ Early 2000s.テつ I thought it was a great place, great place, great tradition.
And I watched from afar, had a chance to go over and visit a campus a couple of times.テつ Had a couple of friends coaching at Stanford at the time, George McDonald, who is now at Syracuse, offensive coordinator.テつ We talked, and he said this place could be special.
Fast‑forward, I met the Minnesota Vikings.テつ I get a call from Jim Harbaugh, and Jim said we'd like you to come out and take a look at our place and we think you're the guy.
I came out, took a look, Vic Fangio convinced me that we could be successful.テつ And you know what it started with, Jim's mentality in terms of what the foundation was, what it was going to be.テつ Vic Fangio did a great job of trying to establish some defensive presence at Stanford.
Stanford's always been‑‑ it's that defensive run, but primarily been known as an offensive school.テつ I think with what Vic did, you know, it was the first piece in terms of the foundation being laid for what we wanted to do.
We wanted to play great defense to complement what we were doing offensively.テつ And I think as each year's gone by, I think what we've been able to instill in our kids, both through recruiting a certain type of kid and by establishing a certain‑‑ a certain mindset, a certain way, a certain standard in terms of how we want to play, what we want to look like, it's been able to happen.
You know what?テつ Imagery is important.テつ What you see yourself doing is what you become.テつ That's what we talk to our guys about all the time, are you what you say you are.テつ And with that, it's got to be more than just words.テつ It's gotta be actions, because you can say a lot of things.テつ But it's all about the work.
And Coach Shaw talks about it all the time.テつ Fast‑forward to his regime and what happened under him, which has been a little different than Coach Harbaugh, but it's added on to it just in terms of the things that we want to be about, the things that we try to aspire to.
And I think with each year it's gotten better, gotten better from guys that left the program.テつ Good players have left our program and went on to do great things, but good players who were actually behind those guys have come along to do great things as well.テつ And I think that's a testament to the guys that can't be formed, but it's also a testament how hard these guys work.テつ It's a mindset.テつ It's a culture.

Q.テつ Some of these guys are saying even in high school they thought Stanford was in the Ivy League, looking around saying you guys play USC, see the opposing Pac‑12 flag.テつ What's kind of been that sales pitch in that to get kids to Stanford, to take a chance?テつ And now obviously they see the success.テつ But what was‑‑ you know kind of what the mindset was to try and‑‑ the initial sale.
COACH MASON:テつ The initial sale was great education.テつ Great education, playing outstanding football.テつ It's hard.テつ You can't go anyplace else than to challenge yourself and find yourself playing great football.
We knew we were on the cusp.テつ We had a great quarterback in Andrew in terms of what was there.テつ And football nowadays is built around the quarterback position.テつ I don't care.テつ College NFL doesn't matter.テつ It's built around the quarterback position.テつ When you have a great quarterback and you're coming off a Bowl‑‑ I think the first Bowl game was the year before I got there.テつ They played down in El Paso versus Oklahoma.テつ And I think that was the first tipping point just in terms of being able to get kids to realize, you know what, Stanford can play in Bowl games.テつ We can do this.
When you went out and you sought out kids‑‑ because we can only recruit a certain portion of the population.テつ We went out to recruit and we found that kids actually watched the Bowl game.テつ Kids were interested in‑‑ parents were interested obviously in a great education, but kids want to see themselves winning.
So we were able to sell what we had in terms of good players already in the program, who they were, where they came from.テつ And that first class that I was involved with when you had a Wayne Lyons, a James Vaughters, and there were some other offensive players like Ty Montgomery and some of those other guys that were involved in that class, you looked up and these were athletes unlike guys that they had had in a couple of years at Stanford.
But slowly but surely they manifest themselves because those guys start to tie into one another.テつ They wanted to play with good players like the Andrus Peats and the Kyle Murphies.テつ Those guys wanted to play with good players.
I think part of it was the education was good, but if these guys don't see themselves playing winning football, they're not going to come.テつ They saw themselves playing winning football and they saw themselves playing with those guys.
So with that being in place, sort of snowballed.テつ Guys just started to talk and they felt comfortable about one another.テつ Barry Sanders jumped on board with Andrus, and young men like Jameis Winston actually was tied to that group.テつ These guys wanted to play together.
So I think that's really what you've seen over the last couple of years, is that the winning‑‑ winning has added to it.テつ It's made us viable and relevant.テつ But I think more than anything else, these guys see themselves playing with those guys.テつ They see‑‑ they see themselves being the next Richard Sherman.テつ They see themselves being the guy who can be like Mike Thomas or be likeAndrew Luck or be like Griff Whalen or like being like Stepfan.
We've had guy after guy after guy‑‑ they may not be big name guys‑‑ but we've had enough good players to go on and make names for themselves.

Q.テつ What percentage of the eligible student‑athlete population are you guys able to go after?
COACH MASON:テつ One percent.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ One percent.テつ One percent, if that.

Q.テつ It's that small?
COACH MASON:テつ Yeah, it's that small.

Q.テつ Kids may go to (indiscernible) 1 percent of those kids can go to any other state school, you can go after them?
COACH MASON:テつ Yes.テつ That's state school, private schools.テつ The standard at Stanford is high.

Q.テつ One percent of the eligible‑‑
COACH MASON:テつ That's right.テつ That's right.テつ That's what we're looking at.

Q.テつ What was the situation with the Vikings when you left to come to Stanford, you were a secondary coach?
COACH MASON:テつ Assistant secondary coach.テつ Joe Woods.テつ We had just come off the NFC championship game.

Q.テつ You could have stayed?
COACH MASON:テつ Could have stayed.

Q.テつ What was going through your head?テつ You could have stayed in the NFL.テつ Why were you‑‑ what triggered you to take the Stanford job?
COACH MASON:テつ You know what, I tell you what, anybody who has been around Jim Harbaugh knows he can sell anything.テつ It was the opportunity to talk to Jim about how he saw that program.
It really was.テつ And then Vic‑‑ Vic really helped me understand what he was trying to do.テつ My roots are in 3‑4 defense.テつ Minnesota was 4‑3.テつ I coached them both.テつ But for me in seeing what Vic had done, like at other places, it actually rejuvenated me a little bit just in terms of thinking maybe, because they talked to me about the talent that was here.
They talked about Richard and they talked about Delano Howell and Mike Thomas and Jonathan Bademosi and Austin Yancy.テつ These guys were‑‑ you know, I'm in a group of guys‑‑ I think when I got there, we were towards the bottom in terms of the pass defense.テつ And I think those numbers lie anyway.
But it was a group that was ripe, smart, athletic.テつ Just meeting some of those guys on my visit, it really helped me understand that those guys had high football IQ.テつ I asked the questions.テつ I asked:テつ Why do you play football?テつ Do you love it?テつ What do you see yourself doing?テつ How can I help you?テつ What does winning football look like to you?テつ They ask questions.
The thing about that trip was they asked questions of me that just blew me out of the water.

Q.テつ Like what?
COACH MASON:テつ Like, okay, talk to me about what you know.テつ How can you make me better?テつ In terms of skill set, okay, what does the skill set of a good DB look like?テつ In terms of being able to be a good tackler and play in the secondary that doesn't give up big plays.テつ What does that look like?テつ Tell me what it looks like.
Richard asked me those exact questions.テつ Mike Thomas echoed some of the same sentiments.テつ They wanted to know.
We were standing there for about an hour and a half just talking.テつ And what it came down to is these guys were‑‑ these guys were bright guys, smart guys.テつ They were just looking for something.
And I didn't know if I was the guy, but, you know what, I'm like anybody else, I like a challenge.テつ And the challenge was there.テつ Minnesota I thought was going to go on to do great things with or without me.テつ It didn't matter.テつ I was just a guy that was part of a good football team.

Q.テつ What did Vic tell you personally when he left to go to the 49ers?テつ Did he give you any particular advice how to handle‑‑
COACH MASON:テつ He did:テつ Don't screw it up.テつ No, Vic was good.テつ He said, Listen, it should be you.テつ You're different than me.テつ You know what I know.テつ You understand 3‑4 structure.テつ You're going to do it a little different than me.テつ But don't get caught up in trying to be who I am and do the things I did.
He goes, my experiences, you know, come from years.テつ And he goes, for you, you're going to make some great calls along the way and you're going to make some bad calls along the way.テつ He said, just grow.テつ Just grow and you'll fill in those shoes real quick.

Q.テつ How long did it take for you to really put your stamp on the defense (indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ I think probably two years, because I think everybody had the idea when me and J.T. were working together that there were certain things J.T. did and certain things that I did.
So of course working with Dick and working with J.T., it probably took two years.テつ It probably took when J.T. being at the Raiders and us going on to do some things last year to really validate some of the things that we were trying to do.
But I'll tell you what, it's not really about me. テつI know what I'm trying to get done.テつ I couldn't do it without the defensive staff.
When you talk about David Kotulski, he taught me 3‑4 defense.テつ He was the defensive coordinator at Bucknell University when I went there in 1997 as an offensive guy.テつ He asked me to come over, coach defense.テつ From there he proceeded to teach me everything I knew about 3‑4 structure, what the outside backers do, what the inside backers do, what it looks like on the back end.
And Lance Anderson was with us the whole time, was with me at Idaho State when I was there, then he came to Bucknell.テつ So we were all the same family, same family tree.テつ Lance was already here at Stanford.テつ That's part of the reason I came, because Lance and I coached together for eight years.テつ So to me it was all about family.テつ David Shaw, myself, and Lance were together at Idaho state.
So when you look at it, it's been a family for a long time.テつ So I think it's about coaching with guys you want to coach with.テつ But more to your point about what happened‑‑ when did I really start to feel that it was ours and mine and starting to own it a little bit was really after last season.
Going through that first year‑‑

Q.テつ Then?
COACH MASON:テつ Yeah.テつ Yeah, because you go through it.テつ You think about the Fiesta Bowl.テつ I learned a lot coming out of the Fiesta Bowl in terms of the matchups, making some decisions about how we matched up.
And coming back off of that I understood that you could be a good secondary coach, but it's not about being a good secondary coach if you're trying to coordinate a defense, it's about being a great defensive coordinator to put all your guys in position to be able to be successful.

Q.テつ What kind of cornerback were you at Northern Arizona?
COACH MASON:テつ You know what, I felt like I was tough.テつ I felt like I was tough.テつ I felt like I was physical.テつ I felt like I competed all the time.テつ I felt like because of my size I played a little bit like Ronnie Harris, big chip on my shoulder, mad all the time, mad at everybody.テつ Mad at receivers, tight ends, so I played angry.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ I do, absolutely I coach with a chip on my shoulder.テつ I want these guys to be the best.テつ There's not a day that goes by that my head hits the pillow that I'm not thinking of how we can get better, how these guys can get better, because that's what they came here to do.

Q.テつ Trent was talking about that even after good teams find a way (indiscernible) about themselves.テつ What's some of the mantras and things that you say that are part of what Stanford defensive (indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ Do.テつ One of them.テつ Do your job so the ten other guys you're playing with can do theirs.テつ Making sure for us that we stop the run, defend the pass.テつ Stop the run.テつ I mean, you're always talking about making the team one dimensional.テつ And if you can stop the run and you can dictate, the opportunity for you guys to pass rush, that's what most guys up front want to do.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ That started with Oregon two years ago.テつ We felt like after playing Oregon, having been here two years and played Oregon, you know, we had done some good things, played well in spurts, for quarters.テつ But the thing that we kept watching on film is that if you don't beat yourself, you can get these guys todeep water.テつ You can get them into the fourth quarter.
And nobody had done that.テつ Nobody had taken them to deep water.テつ A shark takes its prey in the deep water.テつ That's what we wanted to try to do, is drag Oregon into the fourth quarter and get them in a tight game and let's see who is going to be the better team, stronger team.
And that's what the off‑season and Shannon Turley does with these guys.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible) with scheduling (indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ When I look at Michigan State, I'm facing a former teammate of mine and quarterbacks coach, Coach Salem.テつ We played together at Northern Arizona, him and his twin.テつ We came in together; we left together.テつ And we talked all season.テつ We talked.

Q.テつ This season?
COACH MASON:テつ This season we talked all season up until two weeks ago.テつ So we have history.テつ We know each other well.
I think in this ballgame it's going to come down to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes.テつ You're talking about an offensive unit that's gotten better, I mean, every week.テつ And the quarterback, they started out playing three quarterbacks, and then they whittled it down to one.
And what you see from the quarterback position is ball security.テつ He takes care of the football.テつ And they do a great job of distributing the football through play action because they can run the ball so well, which looks like Wisconsin, which looks like us, to a certain degree.
And they keep the quarterback moving on different platforms so you can't just hone in on where he's going to be.テつ It's not three steps.テつ It's not just five steps.テつ It's a lot of play action, boot, roll, along with screens, and a sound run game, with a lot of end over UFO tackle over to really get your eyes moving.
So they do a lot of shifts and motions to really get your eyes moving, and then they try to get you misaligned with numbers.テつ And we played that game versus several teams.テつ But nobody to this point probably as good as Michigan State.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ You know, really, those things happen at such a fast clip.テつ I think the biggest thing for us is just making sure we get ourselves lined up and giving our guys a call‑‑ we say this defensively.テつ We don't care what we call, as long as we have 11 guys playing it, we think we've got a chance.
And at times this year and other seasons when we didn't get lined up, that's when we got hurt.テつ When we get lined up we're pretty good, because like our inside backers, Tarpley and Shane Scov, very instinctive.テつ They understand the snap count and they know backfield sets.テつ They understand these things because we talk about them every week.
And so for our guys to get lined up, to see what was happening in front of them and to be able to react to the situation, I think that's what we see time and time again in terms of opportunities.テつ Now, in that particular case, you look at us on the fourth and two.

Q.テつ Are you thinking they're going to go to (indiscernible) in that situation?
COACH MASON:テつ I thought they were going to go to their best player.テつ We had a double on Marqise Lee.テつ And Shane moves over.テつ He's seen something that tells him to trigger.テつ So he triggers and we're not able to squeeze.
But you know what, I tell our guys all the time:テつ When you get between the white lines, you play.テつ I coach.テつ I tell you what, we've made more fourth down stops than we missed.テつ And so to look at that game for me, I mean, I remember the year before being at SC or two years prior to that being down at SC and Clarence Stevens being able to jar a ball loose, the ball comes loose and Tarpley scoops it up and we win in a similar situation.テつ So I think we don't excuse it.テつ We just say at the end of the day they did a good job.
We thought the ball was going to Marqise.テつ So we called the double, but we just weren't able to squeeze it fast enough.テつ So I put that on me.テつ I never put that like on the players because we work on those things and a great player made a great play.

Q.テつ Has this been a bit of a unique challenge for you in that usually you see defenses (indiscernible) every single team you played has changed their style just to kind of beat your defense.テつ Have you seen that before?
COACH MASON:テつ Absolutely.

Q.テつ As a coach, how do you‑‑
COACH MASON:テつ It's been tough from the standpoint‑‑ it's tough from the standpoint you go into a game plan, you look at what your game plan is and you say, okay, here's what we're going to do.テつ We're going to set the game plan.テつ We're going to go play.テつ Here's what happened.テつ We've gone into at least nine games here where offenses have done the exact opposite or moved far away from those tendencies.
And what we've had to do is end game adjust, and our guys do it as good as anybody.テつ We fell behind in a couple of games where we had quick scores on us and we had to come to the sideline and make adjustments.
You know what?テつ Our guys don't panic.テつ That's the great thing about these guys.テつ They've been in stressful situations before, so they don't‑‑ they don't flinch.テつ They deal with stress well.テつ And so we make the adjustments.テつ They go play, and then we move on to the next thing and then we see our guys sitting on the other side of it like in the end.
So I'm proud of these guys.テつ This group has been unlike any other group, because the groups before them haven't had to face that.テつ That's why I said this group.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
COACH MASON:テつ They will.テつ Absolutely.テつ Absolutely.テつ When you have three weeks to prepare, we're going to see everything under the sun.

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