Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco
First off, I want to thank everyone for being here today. As
you all know, we open up the season on February 10th, which
is this Saturday, against the University of New Orleans. I
don't remember a season as a head coach or even an
assistant coach where the enthusiasm and energy for the
start of the season was ever as high as it is for our
program. Certainly we are very excited as coaches and
players as we have been for a long time.
The program has had some changes since the last time we held
a press conference. Certainly the most important changes we
had are some coaching changes. Dan McDonnell has left to
become the head coach at the University of Louisville and
Stuart Lake went on to become the recruiting coordinator and
head assistant at The Citadel. The summer was a busy summer.
We have had the same staff here for the last three seasons
and we certainly thought that was a huge positive and one of
the reasons for our success. So over the summer we had to
make some decisions and I think we certainly hired some
great people. One was Rob Reinstetle from the University of
South Alabama. Those that know Rob and have looked at his
bio know what kind of coach he is. As the search began I was
really just looking for a recruiting coordinator. Rob's
name was at the top of everybody's list. Just a few days
after Dan left, Stuart decided to take another opportunity
in South Carolina, so that opened the hitting coach
position. So it was kind of a neat fit, almost like it was
meant to be since I am not only looking at Rob Reinstetle as
the recruiting coordinator, but I know what he did with the
offense at the University of South Alabama and the College
of Charleston. His last three teams have ranked in the Top
10 in the nation in batting average. Certainly we are
excited to have him aboard and he has done a great job since
Hiring Rob enabled us to move assistant coach and long-time
pitching coach Kyle Bunn up to the full-time role. That
enabled us to move Carl Lafferty, a former team captain that
was here last year as our director of baseball operations,
back into uniform and move him into a coaching position on
the field. That also allowed us to bring back another one of
our former players in Matt Mossberg and make him our
director of baseball operations. Sometimes I think you worry
about when you lose guys like Dan McDonnell and Stuart Lake
because of what those guys meant to our program, but I
couldn't be happier not only for those guys, but for Ole
Miss as well with the way things worked out and seemed to
fit back into shape. I know coaches talk all the time about
continuity of staff and the positives it brings, but I think
that are positives in change too. I think with all the
success we have had over the six years, but certainly the
last three years with that staff, it would have been a much
easier summer and certainly a more relaxing summer had there
not been any changes. But the changes made us jump up and go
to work immediately with July 1 recruiting and this fall
with the new coaches. I think they have energized the
program and it was a win-win situation for everybody
Some other changes in the program are to the stadium. The
expansion has started in left field and right field. They
have added more of the cobblestone and now the seating in
left field goes all the way to center field. The seating in
right field now goes all the way to the fight field
foul-line. They have also added a few rows down on both
sides. It looks terrific and if you don't pay too much
attention, you wouldn't even notice that it is new. It
looks great and the job that has been done is outstanding.
This summer, we start with the rest of the
expansion. When that happens, you will notice because the
stadium will look totally different.
Talking about this year's club, we remember everybody
saying last year that this would be the year for one having
one of our best teams. I think last year's team definitely
surprised a lot of people, but not us. Not the players, the
coaches, and the others people in the program. I certainly
think this year, we are as good as we have been any other
year. We are just a different club. We are very similar to
last year in that we return about the same number of
position players. We lost some kids that had terrific
careers here and played some significant roles for the last
few years in our success. We also return some outstanding
players that will break a lot of records and put their name
on the program once they leave.
Looking at Zack Cozart, I don't know what the definition
of a consensus All-American is, but in every publication I
have seen he is a pre-season All-America. We return our team
captain from last year in Justin Henry at second base. When
you look up the middle and see two guys of that quality
return. Add C.J. Ketchum, who is a lifetime .350 hitter in
our lineup, and Logan Power and this team reminds me of last
years team in the athleticism and the ability to play defense.
The difference between this year's team and last year's
team was that the big questions were on pitching. Although
we had another great recruiting class, we weren't sure of
their ability and if they would be able to produce so early
in their careers. Certainly, many of those guys like Cody Satterwhite and Lance Lynn produced as freshmen. This year,
we have those guys back. We are much more experienced, not
only in the Southeastern Conference, but also in postseason.
The main stable of the staff is Will Kline. At the end of
last year's season, he was our most dominate pitcher,
either out of the bullpen or as the starter. To have your
ace back from last year, that makes the staff much better.
Last year, we weren't sure of the ace going into the start
of the season. This year, we have a guy that has done it in
the past and that makes you feel good.
Going around the field, Cody Overbeck will start Saturday at
third base. Cody had a tremendous fall offensively. He
played outfield mostly for us last year and in a limited
role played DH and pinch-hit for us. We actually moved him
when he first got here. He is actually a true third baseman,
but we moved him to the outfield because of Chris Coghlan
and we knew what kind of offensive player Cody was. We were
trying to get him some at bats in his redshirt freshman
year. He seems to have gotten more accustomed to playing
third base again and should have a terrific year there.
At shortstop, obviously we have Zack Cozart. In my mind, he
is the best shortstop in the country for a lot of reasons.
He is the total package offensively and defensively. He is a
great competitor and a great leader.
At second base, we have Justin Henry. Justin is going into
his third year as a starter and his second as a second
baseman. He is just as solid as they come. He is a great
leadoff hitter and a guy that can run and do it all while
bringing a lot of energy to the lineup as a base runner. He
is a great hitter and a great defensive player. I don't
think there is a better double-play, second base-shortstop
duo in the country. Just look at what we have been able to
do defensively and to be ranked in the top 15 in the country
and to know you have the top two guys the middle return says
a lot about our defense.
At first base, we have Andrew Clark and Peyton Farr. Both
had great falls. Both look to play this year. At times we
will play some righty-lefty combinations. We will start
Clark this Saturday against UNO's right-handed pitcher.
Peyton had a good fall. He can come into the game
defensively and can also come in as a DH or pinch hit.
In the outfield; in left field, Fuller Smith will start. He
is a junior college transfer. Fuller has had a tremendous
fall and he just a lot of fun to watch. He plays the game
like coaches like guys to play the game. He plays very hard,
has a lot of awareness on the field, is a good base-runner,
can hit for average and power. He is just a lot of fun to
In centerfield, we moved Logan Power over to center. He
started in left year. Logan is our best defensive
outfielder, and the transition of moving from left to center
has been relatively smooth. We are excited about having him
In right field, this is the first time this has ever
happened to me in my coaching career. We have brothers on
the same team. Jordan Henry, Justin's younger brother,
will start opening day in right field. Jordan is another
newcomer that had an outstanding fall. He might be the
fastest guy we have had since I have been here. To have that
kind of speed, and to have him start. We have had fast guys
in the past, but to have them start day-in and day-out, it
brings another dimension not only to the defense, but
certainly to the offense. When you look at the outfield, it
will be by far the best defensive outfield we have ever
On the mound, Will Kline will start on Saturday and Lance
Lynn will start on Sunday. Certainly, because of how early
it is in the season, several guys will throw. Brett Bukvich
will throw on one of those two days. Craig Rodriguez will
throw on one of those two days. Scott Biddle, a junior
college transfer, has done the best on any newcomer we have
on the mound. He will throw in relief on one of those two
days. Nathan Baker, a true freshman from the Memphis area,
will throw on one of those two days. In those 18 innings, we
are hoping that we will be able to throw six to seven
Q: Who do expect to replace the power that you lost from
A: Last year, we weren't really a power club, although we
hit 60-plus homeruns. In the SEC, that makes you middle of
the pack. When you look at the lineup, we don't have a guy
that you can look at and say that guy is going to hit 15 to
20 homeruns this season like you could at Mark Wright or
Justin Brashear. But, I think we have plenty of guys in the
right year to hit double digits. I think Zack Cozart hit
last 10 or 11 homeruns. Fuller Smith has that ability.
Andrew Clark has that ability. I skipped our DH's, Kyle Mills and C.J. Ketchum, who will DH on opening weekend.
Logan Power has that ability, as does Cody Overbeck. So we
may not have the one guy that in a great year can hit
twenty, but I think we have several that can hit double
Q: Will see evidence of the speed in the calling of the
A: Last year, I thought we were pretty athletic on the
field. We lead the SEC in stolen bases with 95 stolen bases.
We are certainly going to be able to do that this year.
There are enough guys in the lineup that can steal 15 to 30
bases in a season. So I think we will be as athletic or more
than we were last year.
Q: What about the catchers?
A: I skipped that too. Brett Basham will be the starting
catcher, backed up by C.J. Ketchum and Alex Kliman. Brett
has been terrific all fall and early spring. We knew that he
could throw, but he has become more of a leader. It's
tough coming into our system and knowing how demanding I am
of the catcher's, it's tough coming in as a freshman. I
thought he struggled his freshman season in the fall. But a
year in the system backing up Justin Brashear, and he
started some SEC games. So he did get his feet wet last
season, but I think he is ready for this opportunity. He has
caught as well in practice this season as anybody we have
Q: Talk about the lineup.
A: Starting on Saturday, Justin Henry will be the lead-off
guy. After that, it will take a few mornings and several
pots of coffee and paper to figure out the lineup. And the
amazing thing about that is the lineup can change
day-to-day. We have to find the right lineup that seems to
produce. We went several games with Chris Coghlan in the
three-hole, and when we moved him to the two-hole, his
numbers really improved. You hope as a coach you make that
right decision. We will just have to try some different
Q: Talk about the pitching over early part of spring ball.
A: We are ready to play somebody else and see how we
respond. Up until last weekend, we had not pitched great.
But last weekend, we really dominated on the mound and
showed consistency. I think that the question marks we have
are who are the guys that are going to step up? Every year
you have guys that step up, whether it is newcomers or guys
whose roles have changed. I think that as a coach, you try
to figure that out and put your best nine out there. That is
what we are trying to do over the first month of the season,
so that when we start conference play we have our best nine
Q: What is the status of Cody Satterwhite?
A: Cody had an MRI done a couple of weeks ago. The good
thing is that it came out negative. He starts to throw again
on February 9th. He is on some anti-imflamatories. He
won't throw on opening weekend. He may not pitch much the
second weekend. Our hope is that since we were going to have
come out of the bullpen anyway, there is not a huge panic to
get him out there anyway, is that once he is at full
strength, he can pitch when we need him to for one to two
innings of relief.
Q: Talk about Kyle Mills.
A: It has been a tough year and half for Kyle. He was the
national junior college player of the year. In the beginning
here, he has been battling through some injuries and trying
to get healthy. He has been healthy since November, and
physically he is fine. The tough part is that he hasn't
seen live pitching. So he hasn't gotten a ton of hits in
the intersquad games. He had a great day yesterday. He hit a
home run, and two more that were right on the noise. He has
power, but I also think he can hit for average. We just need
to get him some more live pitching action.
Q: Talk about the expectations and turnaround of the
A: Outside the program, you can see the excitement with the
season tickets and the expectations of the fans. We have
talked about raising the expectations of the fans for years
and certainly they are at an all-time high. I think that
when you have those types of expectations, it makes you
better. It makes you work harder and strive to do more. I
think it is better for all of us. Inside the program, I
think it helps with recruiting. I was amazed at how many
people around the country saw the Texas Super Regional. I
was at a high school class reunion in Florida with people I
haven't seen in over twenty years that said that they
watched the Texas-Ole Miss series. I think that being on
that national stage can only help your program. Even deeper,
I think that the positive and negative can only help to
raise your expectations. We have had the same goal since day
one at the press conference when I was named the head coach.
Certainly now, the players are reminded that to win 40
regular season games, to win the SEC championship, to host a
regional and super regional, and now the bar has been
raised. This team has the sense that we must go further. We
must take another step forward.
Q: Talk about the conference.
A: When you look at the conference last year, with Kentucky
winning the East. This year, Vanderbilt being ranked in the
top 10 in the country. Georgia getting to the College World
Series twice in the last three years. Both Florida and
Mississippi State being ranked #1 in the country last season
and don't even make the conference tournament. When you
look at all those things, there is no doubt that by far,
this is most difficult conference to play baseball in. That
is a good thing. To be in a league where you know that if
you don't play well, you will lose. There are no free
weekends, no days off. This is the toughest gamete of games,
the toughest ten weeks of any baseball program could be a
part of. We play in the nicest stadiums, in front of the
largest crowds. It is certainly difficult, but it is also
why a lot of people come here. It is great to be a part of,
knowing that you are competing with the best.
Q: How different is your approach this year knowing that you
are the ace?
A: It has just given me a chance to take a deep breath and
understand what my role on the team is this year. Last year,
I went into this season not really knowing what to expect.
This year, everything is more written out. Coming off a year
we had last year, and knowing that the pitching staff played
a large role in that. Coming into this season with such high
expectations, it has made it a lot easier on me know how to
prepare myself. We have a great team and a great pitching
staff. I'm ready to start the season.
Q: Have you worked on any new pitches?
A: No. We worked a little in the fall with a cutter. But not
anymore. We have just worked on trying to make the pitches
better. I think that most good college pitchers are
three-pitch pitchers. If I can just get better at throwing
the pitches I throw, it will make the team better.
(Zack Cozart & Justin Henry)
Q: What makes Will Kline such a good pitcher?
ZC: He throws all his pitches for strikes. We have faced a
lot of good pitchers, and he by far has the best change-up
in the country in my opinion. It is just one of those things
were he has confidence out there, and when you know your
pitcher has confidence, it makes you better.
JH: I think that since Will got here, he has had the stuff.
We all saw flashes of it. But after the Mississippi State
game in Jackson last season, you got a completely different
look at him on the mound. You could see the confidence
dripping off of him. You can tell that there is no doubt in
his mind that we are going to get every batter that comes to
the plate out.
Q: Are there any new pitchers you have faced in practice
that stands out in your minds?
JH: I think that, of the new guys, Nathan Baker has the
stuff. He is impressive. I think he has done well in terms
of knowing how to pitch. He is still learning, but he has
impressed me so far.
ZC: I think you know about Scott Biddle after this year. He
is going to have a good year. He has some nasty stuff, and a
lot of the hitters on the team don't want to face him. We
are looking forward to see what can do against our
opponents. I know that when we face him, it is not a good
Q: What is your assessment of your brother?
A: It has been since high school that I really got to see
him play. He has really impressed me with his hitting. When
you are a freshman, you are really not ready to see the kind
of pitching you see in high school. I am just amazed at how
well he is able to swing the bat. Also, his adjustment to
playing outfield. He was a shortstop in high school. His
speed has helped, but I am amazed at how well he has
adjusted so quickly.
Ole Miss baseball preseason press conference
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