Bianco on Baseball

The following are some comments from Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco after fall ball for the 2010-11 Diamond Rebs.

On new assistant coach Kirk McConnell, who came to Ole Miss from Northeast Texas CC and played at Arkansas and Missouri State: "Great guy with a lot of experience in a short period of time. He's got a really good reputation from everybody you talk to. Carl (Lafferty) knew him from recruiting. Just a good coach, a good worker. He's going to bring some energy and it's already a good fit."

On having so many staff changes the past year and dealing with that: "In this profession you never know. It can happen for different reasons. Guys get new jobs, guys move on. But from operations to volunteers to recruiting coordinators to hitting coaches to strength coaches, in 10 months we've had to hire somebody for every position in this program – besides me. Some are guys on the staff that switched roles. It hasn't been an easy 10 months. I think that's why we took our time with Kirk's hire. We wanted to be sure, and we had to take care of the fall. One weekend I felt like a high school coach. We were short one coach, and the other two were in Florida recruiting. That weekend I did practice and three intrasquads solo."

Tanner Mathis

On the team's hitting with the new bats mandated by the NCAA this year: "It's really hard to judge. I'm almost hesitant to say too much about it. Statistically it's one of the lowest batting averages we've had. Talking to others, one of them an SEC peer, and I told him we hit 13 home runs. He said that was the most of anybody he had talked to. That's about half of our average in the fall. I don't know what to make of that this time. We hit .265 this fall. We looked back at fall averages in the past, and about .285 was the norm the last so many years. So statistically speaking, you almost have to throw that out because of the bat. I like the offense, and I think we can be pretty good."

On if the new bat changes strategy: "For us, a little bit. But I don't necessarily think it will be that different. I think people will steal a little more. I think people will bunt a little more. How much it changes things, I don't know. We will see. There's going to be a premium on defending all that as well. And it will be important to not blow opportunities, like a guy at third base with less than two outs, you're going to have to score him. Hitting with runners in scoring position is even more important now. And this team showed some of that this fall. We scored runs in intrasquads, even though the batting averages weren't as high and we didn't hit as many home runs. We still found ways to score. You can bunt more and steal more, but you're still going to have to hit the ball to score runs."

On evaluating the possible effect on recruiting because of the new bats: "You'll find there will be less guys recruited who are just offensive players, less of those who play first base and can't really run or defend, they can just really hit. But I don't know if it's right to go out and just get guys that can run vs. guys that can hit. Guys like Chris Coghlan and Seth Smith will always hit. They would hit less, but they would be able to hit. It's the guy who batted .278 with four to six home runs. That guy will be a .200 hitter with none or one home run. Your best hitter who hit .375 now hits .309. The guy batting seventh who hits .262, those guys down there are going to struggle. It may put a premium on getting guys that are stronger."

Alex Yarbrough

On having more options this year because of depth: "When I look at our deficiencies last year when the season ended and I look at this team, I see position player-wise we have more options, some new faces, more depth. The players we lost, although good players, didn't have great years their last year. So there is optimism our guys can match those or do even better. On the mound we lost one of the best, if not the best, guys we've had here (Drew Pomeranz). He will obviously be tough to replace. And if you look back, as great as Drew was last year, it was the worst statistical pitching staff we've ever had. As much as we'll miss Drew and Aaron Barrett, this staff has a chance to be better. We won't have anybody as good as Drew Pomeranz; that's a fact. But collectively we can pitch better. We have to pitch better. It's going to be tough to replace Kevin Mort. We saw Mort play 120 games over two years, and you were certain when he ran out there he was going to catch it. The guys this year have caught it well, too. Will they play seven-error shortstop (which is what Mort was last season)? I don't know. That's tough to do. That's the best year (statistically by a shortstop) we've ever had there, including Zack Cozart. But they're good enough to be good defensive shortstops."

On the infield/outfield: "(At shortstop) Austin Anderson brings a little more offense. Blake Newalu brings a little more skill as far as bunting, hit and run, stealing. He's one of our faster runners and base stealers. So they bring a lot to the table. At second you return a guy (Alex Yarbrough) that's a year stronger and a year better, that's not a freshman anymore and you can tell by the way he plays. He's more confident, bigger, stronger, just a better player than last year. He could play shortstop or third. (At third base) Zach Miller was a performer. He was a ball player. I think we'll still be good there. Preston Overbey has had some days that he's been impressive, both offensively and defensively. Other days, not so good. But that happens with any player, especially in the fall. We feel good about him (at third). There's no doubt we're going to play some new guys. Right now in the infield with (Matt) Snyder not out there (recovering from shoulder surgery), Alex Yarbrough is the only returning guy. In the outfield, somebody is going to have to play out there who wasn't here last year, and maybe a couple of kids. When you look at the returners, you've got to feel good. We return our three/four (hitters) in Matt Smith and Matt Snyder. They understand. They've been here for a few years. They've put up some numbers and had success. I think we have enough people surrounding them to succeed."

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