VETTEL: Foley May Have Struck Gold

There in not a doubt in my mind that most Gator fans said, "Kevin who?" when they heard that Kevin O'Sullivan was the new head baseball coach for the Gators. To be honest with you, so did I. But after doing some research into the guy, I think Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has made an inspired choice.

Sources around the SEC and ACC tell me Florida got a rising star in the baseball coaching ranks.

Intense, driven and demanding are words I hear describing O'Sullivan's competitiveness and coaching style. He's a guy who pushed his pitchers to the max and challenged them to dominate hitters. Relentless, tenacious and inexhaustible are words used to describe his commitment to recruiting. If Pat McMahon was your favorite uncle, then Kevin O'Sullivan is your hard to please big brother.

O'Sullivan also brings strong Florida roots to the job. He was born in Jupiter, played and coached at Florida Community College in Jacksonville. He also coached at Florida Atlantic and spent one year with the Minnesota Twins minor league team in Ft. Meyers.

Those Florida roots have served O'Sullivan well as Clemson's recruiting coordinator. Of the top eight pitchers for the 41-23 Tigers this past season, three were from the Sunshine State. He also recruited two key every day players from Florida. Slugger Andy D'Alessio from Naples hit .319 this past season with 17 homers while infielder Marquez Smith from Ocala hit .336 and led the Tigers with 54 runs.

Impressive Pitching Stats

The 2007 Gator pitching staff posted a 5.27 earned run average and allowed 55 home runs in 59 games. Clemson's staff ERA was 3.73 and the Tigers allowed just 41 balls to leave the yard in 64 contests. Clemson pitchers tossed 45 more innings than the Gators this season, but recorded 179 more strikeouts.

Last year Clemson was even better on the mound, posting a staff ERA of 3.26 good for sixth-best in the country. O'Sullivan showed the ability to identify and lean on his top three guys, as the top of the Clemson pitching staff was a combined 27-6 with a 2.85 ERA. In case you are wondering, none of those three guys returned this season, yet the success continued. One of the guys who did come back, lefty reliever Daniel Moskos was the fourth pick in the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Immediate Challenges Ahead

In his introductory news conference O'Sullivan mentioned he would be out recruiting Thursday night. The Gators could certainly use some more talent, as could any team, but there's some other recruiting to do. O'Sullivan's first task might well be to convince Florida ace Bryan Augenstein that he can help him profit in a big way from another season in college. Augenstein was a seventh round draft choice, but he certainly has the talent to be a first three rounds guy. Several Gator recruits also were called by the pros and O'Sullivan is sure to check in with each of them.

There are a number of other challenges as well with regards to making Gator Baseball a happening, getting students to invest in the program and so on, and we'll have some suggestions for those issues as a later date. For now, though we'll keep an eye on the new man in town and see how his energy and enthusiasm begin delivering results for the Gators.

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