Keeping An Open Mind

The replacement for Matt Mossberg on Mike Bianco's staff will be a hitting coach. There are no plans to shuffle assistants, or bring in a coach whose emphasis is in another situation and make a current staffer a hitting coach.

Bianco talks about the opportunity that has presented itself.

"We're going to hire a hitting coach," Bianco said. "What will serve us the best is a hitting coach, and that is the focus. We'll find somebody to come in here and work with the offense."

Offensively, Ole Miss was good at times, bad at times in 2011. There was no consistency over the course of the season. Sometimes a coaching change can make a difference from several angles of a situation.

"It's important for me to bring in somebody who is going to bring some energy, bring some confidence, that's going to bring a leadership quality that I believe you need to have to be the hitting coach in the Southeastern Conference. Those are important factors."

Bianco's system is in place and has been for more than a decade. It's a proven method with several successful campaigns since his arrival prior to the 2001 season. Bianco is open to seeing who is out there, and he looks forward to a new hitting coach enhancing and improving the Rebels' current status.

"That person's going to have a good system," he said. "I don't think it's important that it's exactly what we do. That's why I want to look at a lot of different people, different philosophies, what other people are doing. As I narrow it down, it may be somebody that has got some similar things. But they're all going to be successful people.

"As I sit down to talk to different guys and talk to them on the phone, we're going to find...I just don't want to narrow the scope or box myself in that we're looking for ‘this guy.' There are a lot of good offenses out there."

Bianco mentions some that he and his program are familiar with.

"Even in our league, you look at a team like Vanderbilt that's very well-rounded, they steal bases, they bunt, they can hit and run. They've hit home runs, but I don't think it's because they're power-oriented. They hit home runs because they hit for high average and ended barreling more balls up and it gives them a chance to hit more home runs.

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"Then you look at a team like Florida that's got a good offense, doesn't bunt as much, doesn't steal as much, and hits a few more home runs with a pretty good team batting average. They drive in runs and do it a more traditional way. There are a lot of different ways to do it. I'm sure we will get candidates that have difference niches."

Bianco said the change in bats this past season will be come up in discussions with candidates.

"Sure, that will be a part of the discussion with everyone I talk to about the job. But that won't be the end-all. I'll ask them how they adjusted their system to the new bat, ask them what they saw more. There are some things that are statistically true. People bunt more than they used to. Another thing that's true is that people steal less. It was thought people would steal more, but statistically they steal less.

"One of the philosophies with that is you have less bass runners, so you're less apt to risk them. But you know you have to do something to produce runs. So it's less risky to bunt a man to second base than it is to steal a man to second base. So I think that's one of the reasons for the statistics."

The current staff remains otherwise intact, and that is Carl Lafferty, Kirk McConnell, and Fuller Smith. Lafferty is the recruiting coordinator and works with catchers and pitchers. McConnell coaches the infielders and also worked with the offense. Smith is director of operations.

Bianco said he is having an open mind about the hire, but college coaching experience is a positive.

"I don't want to say a must. I would think that certainly will be a big factor," he said. "You want people who have worked in college, but that doesn't mean there aren't people in professional baseball or at a junior college that can't do this job and do it very well. Certainly, there's an advantage to people that have worked with hitters at this level."

Offensively Bianco says the Rebels must improve if they are to be as successful as they want to be.

"The best word would be inconsistent," he said of the offense in 2011. "At the beginning of the year we really struggled. Then at the beginning of conference we started to swing it a little bit better. We did make some improvements in certain areas like strikeouts, but we couldn't catch fire.

"There wasn't a weekend that we just won offensively by scoring a lot of runs. It seemed like each weekend we'd have one game where we had a really good offensive game, and then the two others, it's not like we were totally not there, we just didn't have two games where we scored a lot of runs and gave ourselves a great chance to win. It goes back to the inconsistencies in a lot of different areas of the offense."

And that's why Mike Bianco is looking for someone to help make things better on "that side" of the ball.

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