John Cohen Interview, Dec 6, 2013

Mississippi State head baseball coach John Cohen talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about the MSU infielders after the conclusion of fall scrimmages.


Your first basemen are Wes Rea, Brent Rooker and Dylan Ingram. How about talking about Wes Rea first, since he's the returning starter.
"I feel like Wes will be in the best condition that he has ever been in this coming spring. I think that is a key with Wes. And Wes is like having a coach on the field. I think he is evolving as a hitter. It is important to him to stay with the approach that he has at the plate. It is fun watching him take that next step. I also feel that Wes is doing a really good job with our young first basemen.

"Brent Rooker is a really physical, talented athlete. I think he has a chance to be a high level, middle of the order SEC hitter. But we are really going to have to focus on defense and determine if he is an outfielder or first baseman. But I love his work ethic and what he is doing in the weight room. He is going to be a really, really good player down the line. Because we have Wes at that position and have other options, we feel at this point in time that Rooker is a candidate to redshirt. We don't have to make that decision until February. But if our season started tomorrow that would probably be the direction that we would go in.

"Reid Humphreys has obviously spent some time at first base. Wes, at times during his four years, has had injuries. And Reid is somebody that we would not redshirt, so if something should happen to Wes Rea I feel like Reid would be an option there. Reid is a really good baseball player who grasps things quickly. He has a really good baseball IQ. And given time to develop I feel like he could end up being one of the great ones at Mississippi State. I really believe that. And Reid has the ability to slow the game down as a freshman, which is unique. I told him I want him to spend most of his time at third base because we really believe that he has a chance to be our future third baseman. But we told him that we want him to spend some time next month working hard defensively at first base. His brother, Tyler Moore, is an outstanding first baseman who has been in the Big Leagues.

"Dylan Ingram is a young man who has a good feel about hitting. But again, if we had to start tomorrow, we would probably redshirt him as well. He is somebody that I think can become a high level hitter. He is a really smart kid, a really smart hitter. He really has a great background in hitting. During the recruiting process, you worry about kids whose success has just happen the last 12 months. But Dylan has always been a good hitter, a clutch hitter. He has also shown glimpses of power as well. I really think the weight room will be a key for him. If we can get him in the weight room the next six months and really get him stronger I think he can be a legit power guy."

Let's go over to third since you have already mentioned Reid Humphreys. Your returning starter at that position is Alex Detz.
"I thought that Detz had a great fall, and he's a tremendous leader for us. He probably has the best (understanding of the) strikezone of anyone on our club. I think he is an ideal two-hole guy, although I don't know if that will be where he ultimately hits. But it's so nice to have him standing on first base regularly for your three-hole hitter. He had never really played third base before coming here but I think he has settled in very nicely there. That is where I anticipate him playing the majority of the time this season. But again, he is somebody who, if Wes gets hurt, can play first base. Remember, the first 10 or 15 games of last season he played first base for us. And he did a great job. He has also really turned into a great leader for us. I love the leadership of our senior class."

During the fall scrimmages there were four guys alternating at second and shortstop.
"We rotated those guys but during the (Bulldog) World Series the players chose where they were to play defensively. For the most part, Matthew Britton and Seth Heck played shortstop and Brett Pirtle and Kyle Hann played second base.

"I'll start with Pirtle. He's a junior college guy who stepped in and had an immediate impact on our program. And he's become a leader in our program. He offers so much - lateral quickness, he's got arm strength, he's really good at turning the double play, he's a switch-hitter, he hit in the four-hole for us last year, he offers some speed in the middle of our order. We hesitate to move him from that position because he is so good there.

"Hann is somebody that I feel has gotten so much better. What is amazing about his stats is during our (fall) practices we keep a live running total of defensive chances and I believe he had over 500 live chances during our BPs in the fall. That's just our BPs. He is somebody that has worked very, very hard. He is faster and stronger. And I think he has turned the corner as an offensive player. I think he is going to be a really good player in our program.

"Seth Heck is another junior college player who we feel has an incredibly high baseball IQ. He really understands his swing, really understands his on-base percentage. He is somebody who will do whatever it takes to get on base. He's also a very good defender. When you look at his tools they don't scream out as a prospect but he is just a winner. Everybody that we talked to during the recruiting process about Seth Heck, they all said he's a winning baseball player. Everything that he does he clearly shows that he knows how to win each moment. We are very pleased that Seth Heck is a part of our baseball program.

"Probably the most improved player on our entire roster is Matthew Britton. I thought he had a great fall. He has really matured both mentally and physically. He is a physical player now. We've never doubted his arm strength. He is also a plus runner. I think he is a much more confident hitter, a much more confident defender. Having played behind Adam Frazier really helped him and helped him become a really good player. I get the sense that he wants to seize the moment. I certainly believe he is going to get a lot of opportunities in the spring to show us what he can do."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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