Vanderbilt linebacker Bowden eager to improve under Mason

Vanderbilt linebacker Nigel Bowden, shown here against Tennessee, led the Commodores as a redshirt freshman last season with 78 tackles.

Nigel Bowden was ranked among Rivals.com's top 10 inside linebackers in the 2013 signing class and bypassed scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Miami and Tennessee to sign with Vanderbilt.

So desired was Bowden that then-Commodores coach James Franklin spoke at the Macon (Ga.) Central football banquet, at which Bowden was honored repeatedly. Bowden was just days away from signing when his recruiting saga took a bizarre twist.

In pledging at the banquet to outwork more recognized Southeastern Conference counterparts such as Alabama's Nick Saban, Franklin referred to the Crimson Tide coach as "Nicky Satan."

"I didn't even notice it at first, but then they put it all over the news," Bowden said at this year's SEC Media Days. "That opened everybody's eyes, but it showed that not all SEC coaches are afraid of another SEC coach.