Nashville, Tenn. – Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason has added four new coaches to his coaching staff with Jason Tarver, Shawn Mennenga, Aaron Moorehead and Terrence Brown joining the Commodores’ program.
Tarver will serve as the Dores’ new defensive coordinator taking over for Mason, who has served as his own defensive coordinator since 2015. The California native brings 16 years of NFL experience to Nashville after working with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. In his second tenure with the 49ers, Tarver worked in a variety of roles, most recently as the team’s senior defensive assistant. He also coached outside linebackers (2016) and was the senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach (2015). Tarver was also a member of the staff in San Francisco from 2001-10, spending time as an offensive quality control coach (2001-03), assistant running backs/offensive assistant (2004) and outside linebackers coach (2005-10). Prior to rejoining the 49ers, Tarver served as defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders (2012-14). During his time in Oakland, Tarver turned a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL prior to his arrival into the league’s 18th-ranked unit in his first season. He served one season at Stanford alongside Mason as the co-defensive coordinator for the Cardinal (2011).
“Jason is as smart a football coach as I’ve had the chance to be around. We had a chance to work together at Stanford and had the chance to partner up and put together some pretty good defenses,” Mason said. “He makes complex football seem real easy. At this level you have to get it to the [student-athletes] fast, quick and have them believe it. His presence from the NFL will translate to where we’re at here at Vanderbilt. He’s extremely bright. He’s charismatic. His energy is going to be infectious for this group.”
Mennenga (MEN-in-guh) returns to college football as the Dores’ special teams coordinator after spending the last seven seasons as the Cleveland Browns’ special teams assistant coach. During his tenure in Cleveland he helped numerous players set NFL and franchise records, including Travis Coons who set an NFL record by making the first 18 field goals of his career. This past season, the Browns ranked seventh in the NFL in punting average and kickoff coverage and eighth in kickoff return average. Prior to joining the Browns, Mennenga made six stops at different levels of college football. His last collegiate stop was as the linebackers coach at South Dakota State (2009-10) before making the jump to professional football. He brings three years of head coaching experience to Vanderbilt after having led the program at Culver-Stockton College from 2002-04. He was the defensive coordinator at Fort Hayes State (2005-08), Culver-Stockton College (2001) and Hutchinson Community College (1998-2000).
“Shawn brings NFL experience, seven years with the Cleveland Browns,” Mason said. “He’s bright, he’s organized and he’s a great teacher and can make football really simple real fast to let guys play fast. He’s going to be a great addition to this staff. He’s truly a special teams [coach], he can work with all facets – kickers, punters and snappers. He’s going to be vital to this team as we look to play better on special teams.”
Moorehead comes to the Commodores after serving as the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M, the same role he will fill for VU. He spent the last three seasons with the Aggies after spending two years at Virginia Tech (2013-14), three at Stanford (2010-12) and beginning his career at New Mexico. At Texas A&M, Moorehead developed Christian Kirk into one of the most explosive playmakers in the Southeastern Conference. Kirk’s 919 yards receiving last fall ranked fourth in the SEC. Kirk’s junior year came on the heels of an All-SEC sophomore campaign after catching 83 passes for 928 yards alongside Josh Reynolds, who caught 61 passes for 1009 yards. At Virginia Tech, Moorehead had three wide receivers post 40-plus catches in the same season twice for the first time in program history. He also spent five seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, winning Super Bowl XLI. He and his father, Emery, were the first father-son combo to both win a Super Bowl.
“Aaron is real interesting when you look at his career,” Mason said. “He was a walk-on at Illinois, earned a scholarship, undrafted free agent, winds up playing five years in the NFL with the Colts and wins a Super Bowl. He’s a hard worker that understands the game. He was raised in the game, his dad played in the NFL. Once [Aaron] was done playing in the NFL, he came to Stanford to be a graduate assistant and I had a chance to work with him and see his work ethic. He’s a true teacher and gets guys to play at a high level.”
Brown joins the Commodores’ staff as the team’s new cornerbacks coach after spending the last three seasons as a defensive graduate assistant for the Washington Huskies. While with the Huskies, he helped transform the team’s defense into one of the Pac-12’s and nation’s best units. Last season, Washington ranked first in the Pac-12 in scoring and total defense while ranking fifth nationally in scoring defense and eighth in total defense. In 2016, Brown worked with consensus All-American safety Budda Baker, second-team All-American cornerback Sidney Jones and Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Taylor Rapp. That Huskies defense led the Pac-12 and ranked eighth in FBS in scoring defense while also leading the Pac-12 in total defense en route to a College Football Playoff appearance. Brown played for Mason at Stanford, where he was a two-year starter at cornerback.
“Terrence is someone who played at a high level for me at Stanford, he was on the teams that played in the 2010 Orange Bowl, 2011 Fiesta Bowl and 2012 Rose Bowl,” Mason said. “His football IQ then was noticeable. He’s been at the University of Washington as a young coach getting their corners to play well. Washington has been in the top 20 in defense [nationally] the last two years. He understands the making and the dynamic of teaching corners and that’s important to me. He’s one of mine but he’s taken it to the next level. I expect to see tremendous growth from our corners in 2018 and he’s the right guy.”
The Commodores begin spring ball Feb. 26.