Jake Of Old

Jake Morgan completed fall ball back like he used to be. Before Tommy John surgery, that is.

The Rebels' stellar closer from 2009, Morgan, then a redshirt sophomore, made 27 appearances and was credited with nine saves in 41.2 innings of work. His ERA was 3.24.

Then came last October when it was determined what he was feeling in his throwing arm would require surgery. A year later, Morgan is back and ready to assume whatever role his team needs.

"I don't know. We haven't really talked about (the roles)," said Morgan, who has posted excellent numbers in most of his fall appearances, like last weekend when he went two innings with three strikeouts in six batters faced. And that was it.

It was typical, effective Jake Morgan pitching.

"I'm just concentrating on being back," he said, continuing the thought of the role he might assume in the spring. "(As for set-up, closer, etc.) I really have no idea."

It would appear he will slide right back into his old role. But Brett Huber, then a redshirt freshman, came in for Morgan last season with 30 appearances and 12 saves in 48.1 innings.

Morgan said he and Huber have had some fun this fall discussing what the roles might be for each of them next spring.

"It's been kind of a joke, and we've been going back and forth about it," said the Canton native.

All in good-natured fun, of course. But they might not be the only ones involved in who comes in as a set-up guy and who closes. There have been a number of solid performers on the mound this fall.

Jake said the pitching staff is talented and deep, but he sees the same things throughout the team.

"Definitely a lot of talent," Morgan said. "The potential is there. Depth-wise, talent-wise, this is my fifth year, and this is as good a team as I've ever seen."

Morgan said he's felt as good as ever through fall ball.

"It's been really good, probably better than I even expected," he said. "Just being back and pitching, and honestly I didn't know what to expect. I would say I've been pleasantly surprised."

Morgan breaks it down a bit further.

Jake Morgan

"My velocity's been good. It's really just getting the touch and feel and getting back into it, basically. My slider has been a little like some days it's on and some days it's not. But they say with more time and more throwing that will come around. But everything else has been great."

Morgan accepted the fact a year ago that he would have to undergo surgery and the extended rehab that goes with it, and that he wouldn't be able to pitch last spring. So, as all pitchers do who make it back to pitch again, he methodically went through winter, spring, and summer getting ready for now.

"It's been pretty smooth sailing, really," he said of the whole process, especially this fall when he's adjusted to being back on the mound. "The only thing that's really been difficult has been getting back used to throwing. I would say I'm back where I was.

"The day after I throw, I feel I could go back out there and throw again, if they needed me to," he continued. "I would say from where I was to now, I feel like I'm there."

That there's still four months until first pitch of the 2011 season is also good for a player coming back from what he's been through.

"I think that definitely helps," Morgan said. "It's always good to have more time. I'm definitely going to use all that time to get ready."

Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said Morgan continued to pitch better as the fall moved on.

"His last time out there, he looked like the old Jake," Bianco said. "He's had a solid fall, but he just got better and better. His command and his stuff were tremendous.

"He threw 11 fast balls and 10 of them were for strikes. The one ball he threw was planned and was about six inches off the plate, just like he meant to throw it. Health-wise he's had no issues, and now he just works every day to get stronger and ready for the season."

Bianco agreed that it is nice to have an array of pitchers, not just Huber and Morgan, that can be counted on this time around. But he knows the talk is which of the two will close.

But this fall hasn't really been about that, and time will take care of that situation and also whoever else might fit into a closer role for the 2011 team.

"It is good news to have a freshman All-American (Huber) back and also arguably the best closer (Morgan) in the SEC from the year before," Bianco said. "That's good stuff."

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