Vanderbilt reached a bowl game last season for the first time under head coach Derek Mason, but even that wasn't good enough.
As the Commodores hit the practice field for the start of fall camp Monday, players and coaches admitted that the 41-17 loss to N.C. State in the Independence Bowl has stuck with them throughout the offseason and served as motivation entering practice.
"We didn't finish they way we want to," Mason said at the team's media availability before practice Monday. "That taste is a little sour for this group. This group understands exactly what we didn't get done. We left something on the table and so that's got to fuel you. The lesson coming out of the N.C. State game will probably take us all the way up until we play MTSU."
Mason's Commodores have the motivation and the experience to make some noise in the SEC this fall. Ever since taking over the reigns of the defense himself two years ago, Vandy has been one of the more stout defenses in the league and that should be no different this fall with even more of Mason's recruits on campus.
Couple that with a veteran offense led by quarterback Kyle Shurmur and the school's all-time leading rusher Ralph Webb and the Dores believe they can do big things in 2017.
"I couldn't be more excited," said Mason. "I've got a senior-laden group. This group's ready to go. They understand what's at stake for us, they grew up with me as a coach and they've had to learn what it takes to compete in this conference and we've done it together."
Vandy has grown each season under Mason. After going just 3-9 and winless in the SEC in his first season in 2014, the Commodores improved to 4-8 and 2-6 in the SEC in 2015. They won three conference games last season on the way to the team's first bowl appearance since 2013.
Now the Dores are hungry to do even more and believe it's possible with the group they have coming back.
"We've seen a lot of stuff that we're going to see," cornerback Tre Herndon said. "So having that older group, everybody's confident, everybody knows what we have to do. It's just getting it done."