With the fall scrimmages concluded, what is your impression of the catching situation?
"I think that (senior) Wes Thigpen is ahead of everybody because (senior) Cody Freeman didn't get to swing the bat due to his left shoulder surgery. With Thig and Cody you have two senior catchers who can start anywhere in the Southeastern Conference. I feel pretty good about that because it is very rare in a league like ours where you have two senior catchers like the two that we have. We have two legitimate professional catchers. And we would not be afraid to put (true freshman) Hunter Renfroe behind the plate tomorrow. Offensively, he showed some things such as his power, arm strength, athleticism that you don't normally see from a lot of freshmen. I think the future is really, really bright for him. Those are our top three.
"(Junior college transfer) Brett Bozeman is another guy who can catch. He really swung the bat well this fall but he has some issues with his arm. He didn't catch due to having some injections in his elbow. I'm not really sure how that is going to pan out over the break and into the early spring practices. If he can catch just once a week, we can also play him at first.
"But I really think that Thigpen and Cody are light years ahead of everybody. We'll have to wait and see how Cody's shoulder develops. But the great thing about Brett and Hunter is that both can play other positions. We can put Hunter in the outfield or have him DH. Bozeman can DH against righties or he can play first base.
"I think all four of these guys are going to play. You are going to see all four of them in the lineup at some time.
"(True freshman) Garrett Pitts also caught some during the fall. He's one of those guys who is a good athlete and can play multiple positions. And we needed help behind the plate due to Cody's shoulder surgery and Bozeman's elbow, so we used him some at catcher. He had caught some in high school. I thought he held his own but he still has a ways to go. He's a guy who could help us in the future.
"But right now, I think we are looking at Thigpen and Freeman catching about 95% to 98% of the time. And, hopefully, Renfroe and Bozeman can spell those guys if we have an injury. I don't really see a scenario where Pitts will be catching in a game but things do happen due to how physical and demanding the catching position is."
Is it possible that Hunter Renfroe might redshirt?
"I don't see any scenario where he will redshirt just because he does too much that can help us right now. He can also pitch."
Do you see him being a late inning defensive type catcher his true freshman season?
"No, he struggles too much with the blocking (aspect of catching). He'll be the first to tell you that. He's a good receiver with a plus arm who is also a good offensive player but he struggled a lot blocking the baseball this fall. We are going to work hard on that when we come back from Christmas. And he knows he's got to work in that area."
What do you like about Hunter's offensive ability?
"He has the ability to barrel up a baseball. He can take his hands right to the ball and his head go straight to the baseball. He has a unique ability to do that. We haven't had to do much with him as far as his offense is concerned."
Wes Thigpen struck out quite a bit during the fall scrimmages. Is that a concern to you?
"Something you might not know is Wes started out last fall, went though the entire fall, got a little bit of a break over Christmas, played the entire spring, then he went to Alaska and caught every day this summer. Then, he comes back this fall, had about a week off, then he is our every day catcher in the fall. He has played more games than a big league schedule. I would say he experienced a little bit of fatigue and he's not a guy who is going to complain about it. He simply needs some time off so he can get away from it for awhile.
"During the summer, he had a great summer offensively in Alaska with the wooden bat. He was one of their best hitters. He hit over .300 with the wooden bat against the elite college baseball (pitchers) in the country.
"We are also looking forward to Cody playing. Obviously, he's a great offensive player but he's also our best receiver. Thigpen has a little better arm than Cody, though. But each does some things well that the other one may not do as well. They are good for each other, though, because they can give each other some rest. To me, you really aren't losing anything when you play either one. It's like having two great quarterbacks."
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