"I'll be meeting with some of the guys on into the evening," Polk said from his office, during a break in those discussions.
Polk said that while in a few cases decisions are being made whether to play, or not, some of the 2006 rookies, most are not absolutely final. In fact, he added, even some redshirt calls will remain conditional through the season. "Say we have injuries, we have two players go down at one position," Polk explained. "Then we would probably have to play a guy who had been redshirting."
In fact that happened last season when injuries in the outfield forced State to activate redshirting rookie Mitch Moreland in April for 22 games, including 15 starts. Moreland went on to hit .316, and .296 in SEC games. So there is a precedent here. At the same time the '06 season will likely produce a large crop of redshirts, given both the veteran nature of the ball club and the number of new faces on the roster.
A better way to put the situation is that many current agreements between players and coach to redshirt will be confirmed after the first two weeks of the season. "We'll want to see what happens this weekend," said Polk Monday of the opening series with Marist. But if a rookie, freshman or juco transfer alike, has not gotten on the field by the start of SEC season March 17, he is wearing a redshirt.
Based on fall scrimmages and the first week of preseason practices, at least three newcomers are already booked for playing time. Transfer Andy Rice, a sophomore from Itawamba CC, is expected to start in rightfield as the only new member of the defensive lineup. And freshmen pitchers Aaron Weatherford and Matt Lea, both righthanders, are in the mix for immediate action as either weekday starters or long relievers at first, then ultimately in the SEC rotation.
Otherwise, up to ten new Diamond Dogs could or should sit their first season. Polk has said since December that high school infielders Brandon Turner, Russ Sneed, and Cade Hoggard, and catcher Ryan Duffy should redshirt, as will outfielders Tyler Bratton and Nick Hardy, both JC transfers, and football walk-on Blake McAdams. The simple reason is State's depth in both areas, and the dual-position versatility of the backups.
Depth is even more the reason juco pitcher Jared Koon and freshmen hurlers Ricky Bowen and Drew Hollinghead can wait for next year to see varsity action.
Yet at the same time, all these new Diamond Dogs will be wearing those redshirts loosely. You never know when it will have to come off.