I know you coach the catchers and hitting. Let's talk about the catchers first, then we will talk about the hitting. Your veteran catcher is Josh Lovelady. What improvements did you see from him this fall?
"First thing about Josh Lovelady is in the scouting world he would be considered an 80 makeup. He is an unbelievable human being, one of the best teammates that we have. He is a leader, tough kid who has gone through a lot of adversity. This summer he really got after it with his rehab in trying to come back to full strength, full speed from the injury. His leadership is a true skill that is important to have behind the plate. I think all of the guys respect him not only as a player but as a person. He does not give a day away. Every single day that we are hitting he is working on something. And his swing has gotten dramatically better. I feel like he can be a competitive offensive player in the Southeastern Conference. He allows you to do some things offensively from the hit and run to bunting. I feel like he gives you a lot of options for action offense so to speak. His arm strength is solid. His throws are incredibly accurate. His exchanges are really quick. He does a really good job of getting the ball in the air quickly. His receiving and blocking have gotten tremendously better. I feel like he is a great option for us behind the plate."
Elih Marrero is another returning catcher.
"Elih is a player who gets 15% better come game time just because of how competitive he is. He has incredible arm strength. He is a fast twitch athlete. He has good genes because his dad is a former Major Leaguer. He has a real advantage hitting-wise because he is a switch-hitter. He always sees a breaking ball come toward him. He started the fall off a little slow hitting-wise. But he had to come home early this summer. So, he missed a lot of at-bats this summer. He also lost a lot of weight from that. Because of that, it took him a little while to get back into the groove of things offensively. He is strongest from the right-hand side. He has worked really work hard on his left-handed stroke. And it got better and better through the course of the fall. We made some adjustments and I thought he showed improvements after that."
Freshman Dustin Skelton really looked good this past fall. He hit the ball well, played third base really well and showed great ability behind the plate.
"He reminds me of Ed Easley. Dustin is such an advanced player for his age. He is one of the best receivers that I have ever coached or been around. He is a tremendous receiver. He does a great job receiving, holding the baseball to get more strike calls. I compare him to Ed because his arm strength is solid but his accuracy is outstanding. His exchange times are really, really good. He gets the ball in the air as well as anybody that I have coached. His blocking has gotten much, much better. He has a lot of feel behind the plate. At third, he has great actions. He has some arm strength and accuracy. I was really impressed with his footwork at third. But that is him being such a good athlete. He is going to be a great player for us. Offensively, he made a lot of strides. We made some adjustments pretty quick in the fall with him. And I felt like he had a competitive fall offensively."
Why did you guys start fall scrimmages later than normal this past fall?
"We had a lot of guys play summer baseball. That is why we pushed fall practices back. We wanted to give our guys who threw a lot of innings more time to rest their arms. In the college game you have to make time for them to recover."
You have a lot of new guys this fall. What did you see from them hitting-wise? The first one we will talk about is Hunter Vansau.
"He has power, tremendous pull power. He had a great summer in the Alaskan League. He led his team in hitting. Once the fall began he had success early then struggled a little bit. We made some adjustments and I think he had three or four hits in the Bulldog World Series. So, he started moving forward in a positive direction. And he is phenomenal young man who works hard every single day. I think he has a shot to help us offensively with him being a lefthanded power hitter."
I liked Elijah MacNamee early on during the fall. What are some positive things about his hitting-wise?
"He hit over .400 as a freshman at Blinn Junior College. And that is a very competitive junior college league. I had seen some video of him before he came here. And I thought he had a real shot to hit. I really, really like his swing. He had an injury early in the fall when he hurt his wrist diving for a ball. He is very athletic and has an incredibly strong arm. He has a shot to be a really good player for us."
Harrison Bragg looked really good defensively at third but struggled offensively. Adjustment-wise, what do you need to do with him offensively?
"Because he is so big and strong, I think you have to simplify everything that he does. He came in with a big leg kick. We talked to him about that. He needs to get his front foot down a little earlier, which will help him be more on time and make more consistent contact. We are going to try and simplify what he is doing."
You had two freshmen, Hagan Severance and Reed Smith. What did you see from hitting-wise?
"Reed is a really good runner, a really good athlete. He has a short, simple swing. He gives you a base-stealing option. He had a hamstring injury near the end of the fall that ended his fall. He is a great kid who works hard. He is just trying to find his identity and a role here. I definitely think he is going to be a good player at some point during his time here at Mississippi State.
"Severance is an outfielder whose arm strength is getting better and better. I feel like he has a feel to hit. He has a little bit of batspeed and can pull the ball with backspin. I thought he got better offensively as the fall went on. He had a home runs and some other extra base hits."
Hayden Marze is a hitter who also pitches. What are your thoughts about his offense?
"He probably has as much pop as almost anybody on our team. But I don't think he did anything from a hitting standpoint all summer. So, this fall was sort of like his spring training. He was just trying to get back into the swing of things."