"I think you have to be careful when you start to get into expectations that are specifically result-oriented. I think there is a process of being successful and a process to winning. We talk about the process more in this program than we talk about the end result. Hype is great. Media attention is great. But I think keeping Jeff grounded to the point that he knows there is a process you need to go through and not getting caught up in the little things that can distract you. I think that is the key to his success.
"When you look at this overall record here, he's 9-9. So one of the things that has impressed me most about Jeff … is how he has turned to the next guy and become a leader in our program. And how he has embraced the team concept and that's hard sometimes as a pitcher. A pitcher leading a team is kind of like a punter or a kicker leading a team in the NFL because they are only out there once a week."
"I think Luke Lowery, physically, he's got as much potentially as any kid I've ever had here. He's one of the strongest baseball players I've coached, including Kyle Roller. This guy can do some freakish things from a strength standpoint and for a big guy, he's very, very flexible and loose.
I was always worried about the weight room like I was with Roller. I don't need him to get bound up, but he gets stronger and he stays agile, flexible and that's impressive. I think Luke is a guy we just got a glimpse of last year and kind of picked his battles last year with 104 at-bats. I think he's a guy who has as much power potential and hitting potential and could be a real force in the middle of the order.
"The other kid, Ian Townsend, hit 10 home runs at his junior college last year. I know he hit .330 and hit four or five home runs in 50 or 60 at-bats in the fall and that's kind of hard to do. I was really, really impressed with him. We feel like those four guys, if we put them out for rent, there would be a lot of people who'd want to rent those types of players. But they got to stay with the process that we've talked about and do the things we need them to do, but understand they are the heart of our order?"
The big-name freshman to arrive was Bryce Harmon. With him included, what are the expectations for your younger players?
"I think the No. 1 thing I expect is for them to compete and don't worry about the things they can't control. I make out the lineup. They don't control that, but they worry about going in there and working every day and understanding what it takes to be successful. Coach (Ben) Sanderson is a tremendous hitting coach.
"I think that's Bryce's thing. Bryce came here in the fall and failed out of the gate. It was a transition for him. And at the end of the fall, he turned around a 96-mile-per-hour fastball for a double. That showed me he's making those adjustments and he's got unbelievable talent, but there is a transition period and you have to caution them. Again, not to rush to results, this is the process, trust us and we're going to get you there. Bryce is the right kind of kid. He listens, he wants to be good, heck, he might be in the cage right now if he's out of class. That's the kind of guy he is.
This is my 29th year of coaching and this group of freshman kids is as good as I've been around as far as wanting to be good, wanting to learn the game, wanting to really trust in us and trying to make adjustments. Sometimes those guys come in and they have been successful and they are a little reluctant. This group has been as good as any group I've had.
You have North Carolina and N.C. State, who both went to the 2013 College World Series, on the schedule as well as several other in-state teams that have had recent success. Do you remember a time where there was as much parity in the state of N.C. as right now?
"I don't think people understand how good, and I've talked to a couple area scouts, North Carolina and South Carolina. And I'm not excluding Virginia because they are going to be good and have had some good programs, but how good this three-state region is at baseball, year in and year out. You can turn in a three-hour radius play teams that are going to be perennial top-30 teams every year. You can fill them with your mid-week schedules.
"I love it because we can play good people. I know I've talked to some coaches in other areas that are fighting the RPI battle. If you look at our schedule, if we do what we're supposed to do, we're going to have a good RPI and we're going to position ourselves for the postseason well. All we got to do is win."
If you had to decide today, what would your weekend rotation look like?
"One of the things that I think when you have an elite club is you're good on the back-end (of the pitching staff). We've got a guy back with 14 saves and poised to break the school-record in saves with (Drew) Reynolds and he is a tremendous competitor. We've got Brett Mabry back, who did a really good job in the holding spot. We're just intrigued with Ryan Williams because if you go back, Ryan can throw every day and likes to throw every day.
"So we're kind of toying with him and I call (him) a "hybrid." He can go both ways. He can start for us if we need him, but if I had a gun to my head today, it would probably be Hoffman, (Reid) Love, (David) Lucroy, with (Tyler) Bolton pushing that and (Davis) Kirkpatrick is certainly in that mix too."
Have you stayed in touch with St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher and ECU's all-time wins leader Seth Maness?
"I did not see the World Series because we were in team practice in the fall, but I did get a chance to go to Cincinnati and spend a weekend when he was up with the Cardinals and saw him pitch. It was special. I had a chance to eat dinner with him a couple nights and stay in touch with him. It couldn't happen to a better guy."