Leggett, Tigers Await Big Decisions

As difficult as it might be, Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett has watched most of the College World Series games played since his team's ouster Tuesday night. He's searching for any sort nugget that may help his future cause, possibly as soon as next year.

"I've always watched," Leggett said. "I keep slamming the couch a little bit here and there, about every other inning. I always watch a little bit so I can learn and try to get better. The more you watch, the more experience you have to see what happens out there.

"I'm just trying to learn how to beat those teams again and how to get back and what you have to do to be successful."

Clemson's return to Omaha, Neb., may happen a lot sooner than people think. The likelihood of a back-to-back CWS appearance hinges on what happens to five members of the team and whether or not they return to the Tigers.

Starting pitchers Sean Clark and Stephen Faris are major keys to Clemson's success next year. Should they opt not to return for their senior seasons, it would be a major blow to their pitching depth, which has the possibility to be equally as good, if not better, than this past season.

The coaches are going to do everything in their power to convince Clark, who has already graduated, to come back for another year. If he returns, it could mean being drafted. At worst, it's another year to play baseball and delay of the inevitable of getting a "real job."

"We are going to talk to Clark some more and hopefully everything will work out," Leggett said. "I think he's interested in coming back and we'd certainly love to have him back, so we'll work on that."

Faris is another story. He was selected in the 12th round of the Major League Draft held earlier this month, so Leggett and company have to compete with that. However, on Clemson's side is the belief by many that if he returns for another year, Faris could greatly improve his draft stock, which means a lot more money.

The exact same thing goes for first baseman Andy D'Alessio, who was selected in the 10th round for the second time. That was the round he was chosen while in high school. Another year in college could increase his payday in a major way, as well.

Should Faris and D'Alessio return, the Tigers no doubt would be considered favorites to make a return trip to Omaha.

"Personally, it's my opinion that they'd both do better coming back to school and getting their degree and finishing it off," Leggett said. "But they've got decisions to make. But we'll support them any way we can. We'd love to have them both back."

Another key member that is expected to return is third baseman Marquez Smith. He was drafted in the late rounds and playing a full year at third base would likely increase his draft status as well.

Leggett said he expects Smith to return.

"I'm sure he'll comeback to school," he said.

The fifth person, and maybe the most important, is Leggett, himself. Contract negotiations between he and athletics director Terry Don Phillips have been at an impasse.

Leggett said he hopes the contract extension can be resolved soon.

"I'm sure we'll sit down at that time and hopefully try hash things out," Leggett said. "I really love Clemson and the people here have been fantastic. … Hopefully we can continue the tradition of this program. We'll talk about that, I guess, next week."

If all the pieces return, the only gaps to fill are in left field, catcher and designated hitter.

Expect highly touted incoming freshman Addison Johnson to play left, with Alex Burg and D.J. Mitchell sharing the designated hitter and right field duties. Redshirt freshman Will Boyd will likely see significant playing time in the outfield, too.

Burg could also see time at catcher, along with incoming freshman Buddy Munroe.

If any the new players perform up to par, another 50-win season is expected, and who knows what else may happen.

"I'm just excited about the opportunity to try and regroup and get back and go back to Omaha again," Leggett said. "The kids are already talking about it. We've got a good core and a good nucleus of kids coming back that have a lot more experience going into next year and hopefully that experience will help us."

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