Mason is one of five players who will be competing to take over as the starting tailback when preseason drills open in August. Others in the mix include senior Onterio McCalebb, sophomore Corey Grant, redshirt freshman Mike Blakely and incoming freshman Jovon Robinson.
"I am doing my best to get the starting spot," Mason says. "I am lifting hard, working hard in the classroom and on the field."
Asked if he feels more prepared to make a run at the starting spot than he did as a freshman when he averaged 5.8 yards per run on 28 carries, Mason says, "Yes, 100 percent. I feel like I can do it this year. I have more confidence in my game. I have more confidence I can win it."
All of the offseason work in the weight room has helped him bulk up to 205 pounds, a weight he hopes to be able to maintain throughout the 2012 season after playing at 190 pounds last year."
The tailback notes he can definitely tell a difference with the extra muscle. "I feel more complete," he says. "I didn't lose any speed. I felt like I got faster working with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) because he stresses speed.
"The summer has been going well," he points out, noting that strength and conditioning coach Yoxall is pushing the players hard to get them ready for the season. "The grind is real, of course, with Yox. We are just trying to get back on track to getting that crystal ball.
"Everybody is getting pushed and everybody is trying to learn this new offense so we are doing our best to understand it and execute it very well," the sophomore adds.
During the summer voluntary workouts Mason and the others on offense are working on learning assignments for the new system put in during spring drills by offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.
"This is more of an NFL style offense and I ran this offense in high school so I am a lot more comfortable in it," Mason says. "I kind of know what to do already and what to expect."
The offense will feature transfer fullback Jay Prosch, who was a standout at Illinois the last two seasons. Prosch received a waiver and will not have to sit out as a transfer this year, which was especially good news to Mason and the other tailbacks.
"We call him The Hulk," Mason says with a smile. "Whatever is in his way he is going to smash it. We are going to run behind him. I have a lot more confidence in my game knowing he is in front of me."
Mason notes that all of the tailbacks were excited when they found out that Prosch had been cleared to play for the 2012 season. The sophomore notes he is also excited about the new offense and new coordinator.
"Coach Loeffler is such a great coach and he is such a football mastermind," Mason says. "All of his plays he disguises people and puts people everywhere. You might see me and Onterio out at receiver a little bit. I feel like we are going to be a threat. I love catching passes out of the backfield."
Mason is shown in action during spring drills.
One of the highlights of the spring for the offense was improved play from quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Mason says that the sophomore is continuing to make strides in the voluntary summer workouts.
"Kiehl is really stepping up big as a team captain," Mason says. "Kiehl has turned into a great quarterback. He is going back to his high school ways. He dominated in high school and he is dominating now. I can't wait to see how he does."
As a true freshman Frazier was reluctant to take a leadership role. That is changing.
"We told him we won't win unless he steps up as a team leader and he has really taken that in and is getting really focused, doing what he has to do," Mason says. "He is really getting on people for messing up. He just won't sit there and be quiet. He lets them know."
Asked if any of the freshmen have caught his eye in the summer workouts, wide receiver Ricardo Louis and tight end Ricky Parks are two who have stood out, he notes. "Ricardo Louis is really fast off the ball and has great hands," says Mason, who adds that Louis made an outstanding sideline catch in a seven-on-seven session this week. "He is looking really good out there. Ricky Parks is stepping up big, too.
Mason stepped up and performed well with his most extensive playing time of the season in the bowl game last year. He carried the ball nine times for 64 yards vs. Virginia. Asked if that gives him confidence he is ready for a bigger role with the 2012 team, he says, "It does. I feel like I could have done a lot better, but it gave me a little more confidence to know how the game is really going to go for me now."