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Mike Gundy lands Derek Mason as new defensive coordinator

Gundy is seeking a new defensive play-caller after Jim Knowles' departure to Ohio State.

UPDATE >> The addition of Mason now been officially announced.

Derek Mason, who’s drawn acclaim for his work overseeing defenses in both the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference, is poised to add defensive play-caller duties in another power league.

Sources tell FootballScoop that Mason, the former Vanderbilt University head coach who led the Commodores to the postseason early in his tenure and then spent the 2021 season as Bryan Harsin’s defensive coordinator at Auburn University, is expected to replace Jim Knowles at Oklahoma State.

Adam Rittenberg adds that an announcement is likely to come later today.

Knowles departed the Cowboys’ staff of Mike Gundy last month for the top defensive job on Ryan Day’s Ohio State staff, and Day in the process made Knowles among Ohio State’s all-time highest-paid assistant coaches.

Gundy, whose Cowboys rallied past Notre Dame to win the Fiesta Bowl despite the absence of Knowles, zeroed in on Mason last week, per The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. 

Mason first rose to acclaim as the defensive coordinator at Stanford University, his three-year turn atop the Cardinal defense setting the stage for Mason to be hired as James Franklin’s replacement at Vanderbilt prior to the 2014 season.

Mason’s past year atop the Auburn defense saw the Tigers, despite an offseason transition from veteran coach Gus Malzahn into the Harsin era, rank in the top five in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense at less than 22 points per game; the Tigers also amassed 36 sacks on the season in Mason’s system.

After Mason and the program parted ways, Auburn promoted linebackers coach Jeff Schmedding to defensive coordinator last week. Prior to coming to Auburn, Schmedding served on Harsin's staff at Boise State for two seasons. Additionally, the Tigers announced the hires of Christian Robinson as linebackers coach / defensive run game coordinator and Jimmy Brumbaugh as defensive line coach. 

Among other moves, Harsin earlier parted ways with veteran offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, the former Georgia and South Carolina play-caller who also served as Colorado State's head coach.