HOOVER, Ala. (AP) New Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason wants plenty of competition among the quarterbacks as he tries to keep the good times going for the Commodores, and he's getting it.
Mason said Monday at Southeastern Conference media days that three-game starter Patton Robinette probably has an edge over the other five passers in the battle for the starting job going into preseason camp. That group includes LSU transfer Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary.
Mason knows there's no way to split practice repetitions among six quarterbacks for long, but sometimes it's how they compete that counts.
"I think Robinette has the leg up, but what I wanted was a quarterback competition," Mason said. "We need to make sure that if we're going to be successful, we have to solidify the quarterback position overall. "
Mason said he won't rush to a decision and his timetable for picking a starter is simply the first game Aug. 28 against Temple.
Tight end Steven Scheu said all the contenders have talent, and that freshmen Wade Freebeck and Shawn Stankavage have the potential to play early.
"What we have now is something we haven't had in a very long time, and that's depth at the quarterback position," Scheu said.
The Commodores also have junior Josh Grady.
Only Robinette has taken meaningful snaps for Vandy. He led the Commodores to victories over Florida and then Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
"Robinette is tremendous," Mason said. "I love the way he competes. I love his swagger in terms of how he talks to our guys, how he leads. But for us to be successful, we need a guy who can do it game in, game out with very few little hitches, very few flaws."
The Commodores have switched to a West Coast offense under coordinator Karl Dorrell, a former UCLA head coach.
Mason is trying to sustain the program's momentum, created during James Franklin's three seasons. The Commodores have played in three straight bowls for the first time, winning two of them.
Vandy finished last season ranked in the Top 25. Mason, who describes himself as a blue-collar coach, wants to aim even higher.
"We have to move past the idea of playing for nine wins," he said. "Nine wins, it's really exceptional. At the end of the day, why have nine when you can have 10? Why settle for 10 when you can have 11? That's the way I think. That's the way I want my team to be. Dream big, you can accomplish big things."