Tom Mason is your new defensive coordinator at UTEP. Who’s Tom Mason you ask? He was the DC at Hawaii last season, until he got canned at the end of the season. Prior to Hawaii Mason spent several years as the DC for June Jones at SMU. In 2014 Mason actually served at the interim head coach for the Mustangs after Jones decided he’d have justabout enough getting his ass kicked by North Texas.
Mason brings a 3-4 defense to El Paso and has had a fair share of success running the scheme. In his heyday at SMU the Mustangs were a top 60 defense, pretty good for a CUSA team running the run and shoot. You can bookend those years with several years of terrible defense in the early days at SMU and then later on the Hilltop and into his Hawaii tenure. But seriously, when was the last time the Hawaii played good defense?
Check out how Mason's defenses faired vs their conference rivals according to Football Outsiders Fremeau Efficiency Index. We could compare Mason’s SMU/Hawaii defenses to all schools but let’s be honest, there’s a pecking order in the FBS and UTEP isn’t competing with the Bamas, Clemsons, and Ohio States of the World. The Round-up prefers to look around similar neighborhoods for comparable numbers. Here's how Mason's defenses compared to their C-USA and Mountain West rivals.
Again, when Mustangs were going, they were a very good non-power 5 team, then, after 2012 the roller coaster took a noticeable tick up.
Mason will benefit from UTEP's physical run based offense which will roll clock, grind out yards and theoretically keep his defense off the field.
Most of your analytical types will tell you that yards per game and yards per play are both a bit antiquated in the spread era in terms of measuring defensive efficiency. Points per play is a better indicator of who’s good and who is Eastern Michigan. Elite defenses allows .3 points or fewer per play while bad defenses allow .4 or worse. The national average in the FBS hovers around .387 per play.
Mason’s defenses were below national average three times from ’08 to ’15 and were just slightly above once. In four seasons, including the last three, Mason led defenses were well above national average in points per play.
The Round-up is excited to see what Mason and the 3-4 scheme can do with a guy like Alvin Jones, a disruptive though undersized player who caused a fair amount of damage in Scott Stoker's unit this season.
Mason takes the job after a fairly extensive search that included talks with former Cleveland Browns linebacker coach Ken Flajole as well as recently fired Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. The Miners will debut new offensive and defensive coordinators in 2016 with Mason and new play caller Brent Pease.