Arkansas lost a lot of great talent to the Major League Baseball draft in June and Razorback head baseball coach Dave Van Horn went into his team's fall practice anxious to see what he had left and brought in via recruiting.
"I think fall ball went extremely well," Van Horn said. "Excited about getting these guys really off the field a little bit and trying to get some kids a lot stronger. We have a long way to go and we have a lot of new players.
"But as far as just on the field in fall baseball, I think we accomplished a lot. Really, number one, we got a lot of at bats for our new players, we scrimmaged more than we have in the past.
"We also started fall ball the very first day it was allowed by the NCAA rule, which was September 1. The reason being that we wanted to get all these new players out on the field as qucik as we could so we could coach them up and get them acclimated to our system and get our arms around them.
"If you do that, you save some issues because new guys get a little crazy when they first get to college and we wanted to kind of keep an eye on that. So far, so good on that."
"I'm looking forward to the off-season and working with guys in the group work and getting these guys more physical and let them really get after it from here on in in the classroom."
Arkansas closer Zach Jackson echoed his coach's sentiment.
"This fall has been the best one since I have been here," Jackson said.
Some of the highlights of the press conference included:
• Van Horn says his goal is to be a better line up one through nine. He knows his catcher will likely be just okay offensively and will likely bat them eighth.
• Jackson wants to start, but Van Horn likes him in the closer roll. He was throwing 93-95 when he played for USA Baseball this summer. Van Horn noted that "we are all about the bullpen here."
• Injured pitcher Keaton McKinney will be ready to start the season and begin pitching a couple of innings and then stretch it ot so he is ready to be a conference starter.
• Fellow injured Dominic Taccolini's rehab is coming along and he should be ready for opening day.
• Arkansas has added its first baseball graduate transfer in Doug Willey (6-2, 220), who pitched at Division II Franklin Pierce and also in the Cape Code league. His nickname is grandpa because of his age and Van Horn believes he could be an eighth inning guy and provides valuable experience at the back of the bullpen.
• ClarK Eagan could play first base, third base or the outfield.
• Former Catcher Carson Shaddy was given a look at third base this fall and could help there. He actually had Tommy John surgery for an injury he believes that he likely suffered in high school and played through.
• The Razorbacks did not have many left-handed pitchers last season, but have rectifield that through recruiting.
• Rogers pitcher Weston Rogers - one of those left handers - had the best fall of all of the freshmen. Other lefties that have come along include Bryant's Blaine Knight and junior college sophomore transfer Hunter Hart, who was 10-0 last season in junior college.
• Sophomore pitcher Kyle Pate has come along now that he has matured and is taking things more seriously.
• The outfield is an unknown with losing all three starters, but sophomore Luke Bonfield, junior Jake Arledge, redshirt freshman Jack Benninghoff are ahead in that battle right now with true freshman Eric Cole and sophomore Chad Spanberger also seeing time in right field.
• Eagan and Cullen Gassaway will see time at first with Spanberger seeing time there as well.
• Rick Nomura will be the second baseman and Michael Bernal at shortstop with Cody Scoggins backing up both of those sports as well as being a candidate at third along with Drew Tyler and Shaddy.
• The catching will be handled with a platoon of Alex Gosser and Tucker Pennell while Grant Cook will have a chance to see time there as well.
• Former player Max Hogan had to give up baseball and will now be a student coach for Arkansas. He'll likely coach first base this year.