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“First of all, thank you for being here. It shows the level of importance of Mississippi State baseball and how big the program is on a national scale when we are at the end of November and there is a room full of people to hear about MSU baseball and the things we are going to be able to accomplish moving forward. It speaks for the volume of people and fans in Mississippi that love MSU baseball and are looking forward to this upcoming season. The last several weeks have been an absolute whirlwind for myself and my family. One of the first things I want to do is thank all of the wonderful people in Starkville who have had such a warm reception for my family. They truly have been amazing. Just the day to day people around town and in restaurants have been welcoming, lending a helping hand and asking about the program and where our kids are going to school. My family and I are excited to be here. I am really looking forward to being the head baseball coach here at MSU. We had 10 practice dates after I took the job and they were great days on the field. The weather was outstanding. It gave us a really good snapshot of what our team could be like this spring. I thought our energy was outstanding on the field every day. Guys were excited to get to the park, ready to be coached. Guys were ready to get out there and show a brand new coach what they could do. I told them that it did not matter to me what the first four weeks of fall were like. I wasn’t concerned about how the first month of fall went. I was just looking forward to seeing what you could do, in the last 10 days, of how you can contribute to our team this year. I thought our guys did an outstanding job. They were extremely coachable and played hard every single day. They show you that baseball is important to them. They take a lot of pride in their game and the university that they attend. They want to be great. That is one of the things that really excites me. I am fortunate enough to be at a program where baseball really matters. There has been so much pride and tradition with baseball that I really do feel like I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world to be here. We just announced our 2017 signing class this morning. It is a class I am extremely excited about. There are so many parts and pieces that go into putting a signing class together. It takes a total staff effort to understand what you need moving forward with your program being able to identify the guys that are leaving your program due to graduation or the Major League Baseball draft every year and just going out and trying to find the very best players in Mississippi, in the South and nationally that are going to help MSU win SEC championships in the upcoming years and help MSU win its first national championship. This class has so many high ceiling type of players. Position player wise, I believe it is one of the very best groups of position players in the country. Several of the outfielders that signed with us last week are top 50 players in the country. We have guys who participated on the Team USA team this summer and won a gold medal. We have guys who were in those trials all summer long. These position players are guys who are going to help us for years to come. These are guys who have an incredible feel to hit the baseball and high level baseball IQs. Their tool packages are exactly what we are looking for. There are several guys that can really run and are some of the fastest guys in the entire country. We have several guys who can hit in the middle of our order, drive the ball out of the park and drive in runs. We have guys who are plus defenders all over the field. On the mound, it was built with power arms in mind. I am a really big believer that you need power arms to win in this league. We need guys who are big and strong and physical that can get on the mound, run their fastballs to the mid 90s with good secondary pitches. We want guys who are minimum two pitch guys, ideally, starters that are three pitch guys. Several of the guys in this class are three pitch mix guys, low to mid 90s with good feel for changeups. We also were able to sign several power armed guys that we feel could fit in the bullpen for us. Maybe they are a two pitch guy with a good fastball. We have five guys in our class with fastballs north of 95 miles per hour. Several of these guys are junior college kids that can make an immediate impact with a transition and acclimation period that should not be overwhelming to these guys. They can come in next fall and get on the mound and get our guys out. There are several younger kids with three pitch mixes that we feel could be weekend starters in this league. Tremendous group of guys that signed with us last week. I am extremely proud of our staff with all the hard work they put in to get these guys to campus and get them on visits and ultimately see them all the way through to National Signing Day. It is a tremendous effort by our guys. Our recruiting coordinator Will Coggin did an outstanding job of keeping our class together when there was so much transition going on over the last month. I want to give him a lot of credit for all of his hard work and effort in putting this class together, keeping this class together. He does such an outstanding job of selling MSU. He is truly a guy that bleeds maroon. He played here and is now coaching here. He loves the university and is really proud to be here. Gary Henderson, our pitching coach, did a fantastic job of identifying a lot of these arms that we talked about that can come in right away and help us compete for another SEC championship. I want to give those guys a lot of props for all their work and effort in continuing to make Mississippi State one of the best programs in the country.”

On what he saw in fall practice going into the spring

“We had a really good fall in terms of production and then we had a really good fall in terms of guys being able to answer the bell, particularly on the mound. Guys were constantly able to take the ball and go get their innings. In terms of weekend rotation, we have several guys. That’s going to be an ongoing battle up until our first game in February. We have several really good options that could fit on the weekends for us. These guys are going to continue to have the opportunity to earn and win that playing time and mound time into practice in January and into February. One of the things we talk about with our players is that every single day we take that field is an opportunity to win and earn playing time. Those guys did a great job of going out there and competing for innings and playing time and doing everything they can to show the new guy in town that they can help this team win another SEC championship.”

On when he is going to trim the roster

“Those are things that our staff is meeting about on a daily basis. With me only being here for 10 practices, I am really going to rely on our entire staff on what they saw this fall and go off of what these guys have done in the past to decide as to who are the very best 35 guys who can help us win another SEC championship. Ultimately, those guys will answer that on the field as we get going into January and early parts of February.”

On having two former head coaches (John Cohen as Athletics Director and Gary Henderson as pitching coach) nearby

“First and foremost, John Cohen I couldn’t ask for a better boss in terms of someone who has been a head coach in the SEC for as many years as he had. He has a tremendous knowledge of the league and knows what it takes to win in this league. Having him as the athletic director assures me that he is always going to look out for the baseball program and recognize the type of resources you are going to need to compete in this league. Gary Hendersonhas been tremendous. I spend a lot of time in his office on a daily basis just asking questions and bouncing ideas off of him trying to speed up that learning curve. He has been a tremendous sounding board for me in the office every day and he is one of the best pitching coaches in the country. Gary has the autonomy with our pitching staff, and I couldn’t ask for a better pitching coach in the country to be with me right now.”

On if anything has caught him off guard in his first head coaching job

“Nothing has been too much or overwhelming. I really enjoyed being on the field every day with our guys. Just being able to coordinate practices, talk to hitters and pitchers, work with outfielders and infielders, and have your hands on the entire practice on a day to day basis has been a really cool feeling. I want to help each and every one of these guys become the best pitcher, outfielder, infielder or hitter that they can possibly become. All of our guys have tremendous goals in this game. They all want to be professional players at some point in their careers and I want to be able to do whatever I can to help them achieve all of their dreams and what they want to do in baseball.”

On if there is pressure with having two former head coaches (Cohen and Henderson) close by

“I think you need to have a supreme confidence in your ability to know the game and to be able to run the program the way you want to run it. John has had so much success here and there are so many things that I want to continue to incorporate into our daily practices a lot of the things John and his previous staffs have done because they have had so much success doing it that way. Some of the things they’ve done in the past combined with the ideas and new things that I want to do have a chance to mesh and completely become the best place in America to play baseball.”

On how much talent is still on the team after 11 Diamond Dawgs signed with MLB teams

“A tremendous amount of talent. Competing against Mississippi State four times last year with LSU, that was a really good team. They had a great mix of power arms on the mound and veteran position players. That was evident by the number of draftees they had in the MLB draft. At the same time, Mississippi State has done a good job of recruiting the last couple of years. Yes, there was a big hit through the Draft last year but at the same time there are a lot of new names and faces that fans do not necessarily know about. These kids are equally as talented as the previous group. They just haven’t had that time on the field to show these great fans how good they are. We certainly lost a lot of production as evidenced by the draft and the SEC championship. I look at this team like I do our team last year at LSU. That team had lost eight of our nine position players to the draft. We had lost our top couple of arms. It was a brand new team last year. These guys are extremely talented. They are hungry and want to be great they just haven’t had their opportunity yet to get on the field and show everybody how good these guys are going to be. With the youth, I think there is a lot of new energy and excitement from these guys to go out and win a job rather than some older kids who are just looking forward to the season. These younger guys are eager to win a job and show a brand new head coach that they can impact this program in a positive way.”

On guys that stood out in fall practice

“A lot of guys stood out in a positive way. I was looking forward to seeing Konnor Pilkington out on the mound. I was extremely impressed with him. He’s certainly a strong, physical kid that we like who will run his fastball into the low 90s with really good secondary stuff. He has a chance to be one of the top arms in the SEC moving forward. Position player wise, there were several guys. Everybody knows Jake Mangum. He is tremendous and is as equally as good a kid as he is between the lines ability wise. That was one of the first things I was impressed with him about his makeup, his character and willingness to learn. He is a worker. He wants to be great. Brent Rookerwas another guy. Tremendous makeup from him. He is the type of leader that you want on your team. He turned the draft down and returned this year. I think he is primed to have a gigantic season for us this year. I am looking forward to the production he’s going to have in terms of hitting somewhere in the middle of the lineup for us and being one of those home run/run producer type of guys.”

On his team’s freedom to use the bat of their choice

“This university is blessed with a tremendous Adidas contract. Adidas has us decked out from head to toe. It is a great thing. Our guys are loaded down with anything and everything Adidas. With the bats, we are able to use any make and model that we want. Our equipment room is loaded with every single bat that is made on the aluminum bat market. Our guys can use any of those at any time they want. It is a tremendous deal for us because it allows each of our guys to use the bat that is the best feel for them. For the time being, it is a tremendous asset for us as a baseball program. It is a tremendous recruiting tool where we can bring in prospective student athletes, let them see that equipment room and let them pick out a bat that they want to use. A lot of them ask what type of bat we use because a lot of them will use one type of bat and don’t want to swing any other. Here at MSU they have the best of both worlds they get the very best stuff from Adidas and in terms of bats, they can use any make or model they want to that is the best feel for them and will help them become the best offensive player they can become.”

On the schedule for preseason practice

“Once we come back from the winter break, we will have several team meetings where we will talk about the groundwork and the way we are going to approach the next couple of weeks going into the season. We will ultimately break up into small groups of three on one, four on one type of work groups where our guys are getting back acclimated onto the field again. We will progress into our intrasquads where our pitchers are going to continue to build those innings. Our players are going to be busy with finals over the next couple of weeks. We want to do the very best we can in the classroom. That’s one of the things I really stress. We want to have great players, great students and great kids. I want that total package type of player not just one or the other. I know they are out there. We are going to continue to identify those tremendous players and attract those players.

On how many weeks of full team work in the spring before the season

“I think we have about four weeks from the time we get on the field to our first game. We will certainly be ready to go by Opening Weekend. The most important thing is to make sure you can get all of your pitchers back out on the mound again, letting those guys build up their pitch counts and build up their innings so when the season gets here, our guys are ready to go.”
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