John Cohen Dec 11th Interview

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


Luke Reynolds is new to the team. What are your thoughts about him after seeing him in the fall practices and scrimmages?
"Luke, who is 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, is a sophomore transfer from Hinds Community College. He played on a really good Hinds Community College team who played for a junior college national championship last year. He was their leadoff guy. The thing that we liked about him is he is going to be a big, physical guy who can also run. We all believe he is going to have power down the road as he gets bigger and stronger. He also is a very good defender at third base with arm strength. He really understands how to play the game and can slow the game down mentally because of his maturity. He can bunt, hit and run, eventually have power.

"I think he is going to be a very good player for us, but there is nothing that substitutes for having experience in the Southeastern Conference. Luke is a very, very good player who has never played in a Southeastern Conference game. Look at our football team. That is why we are so good in football. If you look at all the experience that we have, that really has paid off. And of course the kids have to get better every year."

Ryan Gridley is a true freshman who was impressive during the fall.
"Ryan is a 5-foot-9 freshman from Milton, Georgia. We think he is going to be a great player for us. He has arm strength, range, is a great defender. He is one of those kids who works so hard that at times you almost feel like he works too hard. Like a lot of freshmen, he puts a lot of pressure on himself because he wants to play immediately. We are very happy that he is here at Mississippi State and we feel like he will have a great future here.

"He hit well. He got the game-winning hit in the fall world series to end it. He is a young man who has gotten game-winning hits his entire career. So, he is good in the big moments. I think, in our falls, we put so much on our kids in terms of strength and conditioning and the pace of our practices that our younger guys hit a little bit of a wall halfway through. Then they have to fight through that.

"He is going to be a great player for us. And I wouldn't be surprised if he has opportunities to play as a freshman."

John Holland is a juco transfer who really looked good during the fall scrimmages.
"John is a guy who has experienced a high level of Division-1 baseball after transferring from Florida State. As a junior, he has already experienced a trip to Omaha for the College World Series with Florida State. He experienced a Junior College World Series. He has done a lot of winning during his entire college career. He is 5-10, 5-11, 175 to 180 pounds but he is a lot stronger than he looks.

"We think he fits in very nicely for what we are trying to do. I don't know if we could have found a better replacement for Brett Pirtle. They are different kind of players. John probably have more power. Brett was a switch guy while John is a left-only hitter. I think John has the capability to play the left side.

"John has already become a leadership type guy on our club. He is also a dangerous lefthanded hitter who can run and who has arm strength. He has tremendous arm strength. He will probably start out as our second baseman. He could also play shortstop or third. He is a very, very good player."

Matthew Britton didn't get to play much in the fall due to a knee injury but you know what he can do.
"Matthew is a senior. He was disappointed that he couldn't play (in the fall) due to the knee injury. He had surgery. I was really proud of Matthew because he gave a lot back to our ballclub during the fall whether it was coaching the bases for us or helping other players.

"I have really seen him mature over the last four years. He really understands what he needs to do to become a better offensive player. I think he really turned the corner at the end of last year. I'm really excited to see what he can do. As soon as we get back on January 12th we feel like he will be ready to go fullspeed."

Seth Heck is your returning shortstop.
"Seth improved his game in every capacity this fall. He is bigger, stronger and faster. All he did was make plays. He was our defensive player of the fall in our world series. He is also a young man who doesn't make Bs (in the classroom). He is a straight A student. He is coming off being the SEC Scholar-Athlete. He was first-team defensive All-SEC. If he gets to a ball he is going to make the out. He doesn't do it due to great arm strength or great range. He just has a nose for the ball.

"I think he is a much better offensive player than he was last year. He stays on the breaking ball better. He has gotten better strength at the point of contact."

"He was voted team captain. Seth is just a special, special person."

Matt Spruill is a junior college transfer.
"Matthew is from Panola, which is the same junior college that Brett Pirtle and Nick Ammirati came from. He might have as much athletic ability as anybody on our ballclub. He can really run. He is a 6.6 (second) runner. He can throw the ball across the infield at 90 to 92 miles per hour. He has pop in his bat. He has great lineage in his family. His brother has been in the big leagues. He has been up and down with Texas Rangers as a pitcher. He is somebody who fits in at third base and second base. He is another guy who puts so much pressure on himself. If we can get him to relax he will be a much better player. But as a student, a person, a teammate, an athlete, you just can't get much better than Matt Spruill. We are really proud to have him in our baseball program."

You mentioned the arm strength of the infielders. How do they compare to other infields that you have seen during your college career?
"When you put all of our infielders on the left side of the infield and let them throw this might be the best collection of (infield) arms that I have ever been a part of and actually ever seen in college baseball. And I have worked with Team USA. Holland is a plus, plus arm strength guy. Gridley has tremendous arm strength. Reynolds can really throw. Matthew Britton may have as much arm strength as anybody in college baseball. And Matt Spruill might have the strongest arm of the entire bunch. His arm and Britton's arm are very, very close. Seth Heck is the only infielder that we have that may have an average arm but he is a guy who is very consistent overall."


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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