Now that fall practice is over, what are your thoughts about your outfielders? Let's talk about Jake Mangum first.
"I think Jake is a very unique player in the sense that he just brings it every day. There is never a time where you have to worry about Jake's effort or his intensity or his leadership capabilities. I think Jake is the kind of player that makes coaches want 35 of him. In terms of hitting, I think Jake had a good fall. He was competitive, he made adjustments and his righthand swing has gotten dramatically better. He came to batting practice with a plan. And he did a good job of executing that plan.
"Defensively, he has a great head in the sense that he is always anticipating. He is never caught on his heels in the outfield, which I think is a challenge at any level. He also has a great arm.
"He is also a leader by example on the field and also verbally. He is also active in recruiting. He wants our program to continue to climb and win a national championship."
Brent Rooker is a veteran outfielder. He was drafted but chose to stick with State.
"Yeah, we are glad that Rook is back. He brings that polished maturity that every club needs. Rook is, essentially, another coach in the outfield. I have heard that he has improved dramatically in the outfield. And he has done an unbelievable job of staying focused and not taking pitches off. He brings specific and attainable goals with him every day. Rook is a Big League hitter. I think he knows that for him to have a Big League career the defensive side of the ball is something that he needed to improve on. And I have seen that product firsthand. I am excited to see what the future of the game has for Brent because he is going to have a long career."
What are your thoughts about Cody Brown?
"Cody is a fifth-year guy. When you watch him on the field you can really understand that he is a fifth-year guy. It is a luxury for a new coach to have a guy who has been through it. Cody is kind of a secret weapon for us because he can play in multiple positions on the field. He is going to bat in multiple spots in the order. He is also a guy who has done an awesome job of keeping everybody lite and helping educate the younger guys on perspective and what really matters."
Something that you mentioned is the leadership ability of these guys that you just talked about. It is a luxury to have such great leadership isn't it?
"It is. And that helps us a lot. I think you hit the nail on the head. My last year at New Mexico State we had seven outfielders and all of them had a minimum of two years of college baseball experience. That is something that you don't really find much of. I think when you add Rook, who is on his fourth year, Cody, who is on his fifth, and Jake, who is on his second, you have three guys with eleven years of experience. That is a luxury. I was a new coach and they really helped to make me feel comfortable and really responded to my coaching style. They paved the way for me to be comfortable and to be myself. They know the main goal that we have as coaches is to help them get better. If they get better our team gets better. If our team gets better then our program gets better."
Tanner Poole redshirted last season. I was really impressed with him during the fall scrimmages both offensively and defensively.
"Tanner is a Major League outfielder. What Tanner can do in any of the outfield spots is very, very unusual. He can get away with a bad read and still make an unbelievable play because he can cover so much ground in the outfield. Plus, he has a really great head on him. No matter how it may be going for him offensively, he does not take that to the outfield. He is going to have a real opportunity to play professional baseball. He is an above average defender. He has an above average arm. And everybody on the team loves him because he is a pleasure to be around.
"He also had a great fall offensively. He is a guy who has really sneaky power, which will also help him get to the next level. He has a short memory. He can be 0 for 5 and you wouldn't know it due to that short memory. He doesn't bring the previous at-bat to the next at-bat. And in this league if you don't have a short memory this game can swallow you."
Brant Blaylock improved a lot from last fall to this fall. What are your thoughts about him?
"Brant is one of our most physically mature players. He can run, throw, hit for power or hit for average. He can steal bases and make outstanding plays in the outfield. Brant is a guy who has really improved his stock over the fall. He is another guy that everybody likes and one who everybody sees the work ethic in him. He will likely be in the office any minute now watching video and studying his swing. He had an awesome summer in Florida. We are excited about Brant. There he is right there! (Brant walked into the office as Mike was talking about him.-Gene). We are going to count on him this year. Whether that is as a starter or defensive replacement, who knows. "
Hagan Severance is a freshman.
"Hagan is a very talented kid. He has been around a lot of really great players in a very short amount of time. It has been cool for me, as a coach, to see Hagan develop into his own type person. For a young guy to come to Mississippi State and be around guys like Jake Mangum, Brent Rooker, Tanner Poole, Brant Blaylock, that can be overwhelming for young kids. But Hagan, after the first few days of individual work, realized he belonged here. He told himself that he was going to be his own guy and not let anyone stand in his way. And he has improved dramatically.
"Offensively, he has the ability to hit for a pretty good average. He has a knack for the barrel meaning he can have success even with an ugly swing in terms of mechanically sound. When he is in rhythm he puts good swings on it because his barrel is in the zone for a long time. As a hitting coach, that is the first stages of a good hitter. Can you find the barrel when you are fooled on a good pitch, can you find the barrel with most hitters can't? And he has proven that he can do that."
What are your thoughts about Hunter Vansau?
"First and foremost, Hunter is an awesome kid. He is another one where there is not much horsing around. He is a guy who can make the routine play. He has an above average arm. I think Hunter's biggest strength is his bat. He has a lefthanded bat with real power and a real feel to hit. It has been cool to see him evolve into himself. He has made a bunch of adjustments and he has done a good job with them. Having players around him who are going to play in the Big Leagues sometime has helped him. He knows he belongs here."
Elijah MacNamee was impressive early on during the fall.
"He is an extremely talented kid. He is a second year guy so he is a younger guy. When he showed up here there was the potential to be overwhelmed but he hasn't been. He had a hand injury that caused him to miss something like 20 days. But he came in without skipping a beat (in the fall scrimmages). He can run and has one of the better arms in the outfield. If he does what we think he can do, then he is going to play a pretty good role for us."