Cohen recaps 2015 season

Head coach John Cohen

On season…
Obviously we were very disappointed. If you look at all phases of the season in terms of our overall production and the health with our club and everything was pretty disappointing. I’m not a big believer in the luck part because I believe you make your luck. Just by viewing what some of the teams in our league have done in the postseason and the way we competed against them in our regular season, and we’re one crazy play away from at least taking two out of three from a very good, older and experienced LSU club or a pitch or two away from taking two out of three from a very good Texas A&M club. I don’t think we’re that far away, but I think for us to recover from the many things that happened to us during the course of the year, it’s going to take a tremendous task. We just didn’t answer the task the way I wanted us to. I’m excited about the kids we have coming back. We have seven kids playing in the Cape Cod League right now. We have 20-something kids playing summer baseball. I feel like we can have a good club coming back.”

On summer baseball development…
“The summer is always big for every college baseball player. The development of our kids during the course of the summer has always been pretty important.”

On assessing season with staff…
“I think any successful organization is always assessing what’s going on in their organization and we’re no different. I think every successful business does that. I think any one not doing that is not doing their job. Anybody who is status quo in anything that they do isn’t a very successful person. We’re evaluating everything we do from every phase of our program.”

On identifying areas of improvement…
“There are a ton of things, especially in some of things we are going to do in terms of our pitching. I think some of it has to do with the way our personnel sets up for our ball park and for the way we are going to try and play. We’re constantly working through all those dynamics.”

On holding on to recruiting class…
“I don’t know of anybody who recruits at the highest level feels confident. What we’re competing against are dollars, and in our society money wins a lot over development and over long-haul assessment of a young man’s life. Dollars can win the battle in a hurry, but we’ve been in close contact with every one of our kids. We’ve been in a ton of homes. With our process, you have to recruit and re-recruit and the re-recruit again. We’ve done that. We feel like we’re in as good of a position as we can possibly be. If this entire class shows up, I think it can be one of the best classes in the country, if not the best class in the country. We’ll see what happens. You have to have a little bit of a crystal ball because you sign somebody or commit somebody and at that point in time they aren’t ranked in the top-500 players in America and they become a second or third-rounder, and they are staring a six, seven, eight hundred to one million dollars. That’s tough when you start out with someone who is not on anybody’s radar and they end up being a big-time player. I think if you’re recruiting somebody from the get-go ranked in the top-20 or 30 in America and you get them, you plan on, ‘there’s a good chance we’re going to lose this.’ If it’s somebody who isn’t on anybody’s radar and all of a sudden two months before the draft he creeps up on a radar and becomes a top-5 round pick, that’s when it gets you. The only way you can prepare for those things, quite frankly, is to be super aggressive in your numbers. It’s a challenge, there’s no doubt about it.”

On players returning next year…
“You just don’t know. We don’t know at this point in time. We’ll know a lot more next week. We have certain challenges that are really hard to talk about from an administrative standpoint in terms of putting together a baseball team that put us in a position to make sure we have a good product to put on the field. We have to have good players. We don’t want to go through what we did this year, and in knowing what we went through this year we want to make sure we have the best possible roster to represent Mississippi State in the best way.”

On any current roster changes…
“There are still some discussions. In any form of a university, there is some transition. I’m sure there will be some of that, but I’m just not in a position to talk about that yet.”

On impact incoming pitchers can make next season…
“It’s really hard to tell. You really, in some ways, the year you are having at that moment is defined by what happened two and three years from that point in time. I think they will all have an impact, you just don’t know at this point in time. It’s a little bit of a flip of a coin. When you look at SEC rosters for the most part and see the amount of kids on a roster in the Southeastern Conference, then look at the amount of kids on a roster who are actually contributing a ton to that pitching staff, in some cases those a pretty small numbers. We don’t want it that way. We want as many people to contribute as possible. It’s a jump. To go from the high school level or junior college level to the SEC, it’s a jump. How quickly somebody makes that jump is really hard to say. There’s no question that there is opportunity for all those kids.”

On losing potential players to the MLB Draft…
“It’s hard to say. We lost a kid who was a 40th round pick last year. We’ve held on to kids who went in the fifth round. It’s really hard to say because every family is different. When you’re posed with that question, it’s hard to know how somebody will react. Somebody calls your house and says, ‘How about $150,000? How about $700,000?’ Until you’re put in that situation, you really don’t know how you are going to respond. It’s hard to say. It’s different for every family. Every family’s socioeconomic situation is different. We just have to wait and see.”

On confidence of signing all recruits…
“I think we have a chance to get all of them. Even some of them whose folks are mentioning a late first round or second round, I still think we still have a chance to get every one of them. The only thing good about the draft for us is when they call one name, it pushes one name one pick back. That’s the only thing that really helps us. This is one of the things you enjoy about your career. It’s a challenging deal. I don’t know if there are any other sports that have to deal with this. Certainly, if you recruit at a very high level, it’s something you have to deal with and you think about all the time.”

On injuries…
“We’re nursing some injuries. I don’t want to discuss them at this point in time because I’m not 100 percent sure where they are going to be two months from now. We had some injuries that hurt us. It’s not an excuse because every team in America that’s good or has a chance to compete at the highest level has injuries. The ones who can minimize that I think are the ones who have a better chance than most. We’ll get through the summer. We’ll have some kids in town who we will rehab, and hopefully will be ready to go in the fall.”

On not being in the same position as last year…
“We felt like the catching position, we felt like we were going to have one of the best guys in the league, and we had a guy who really struggled with injuries the whole time and he’s still recovering from that injury. We had several things, to be honest with you, we didn’t mention to the media or to people outside the confines of our locker room because we didn’t want to use it as an excuse and we just didn’t want it out there. We really had a wounded unit this year. Our kids know that’s not going to fly with me. It’s not an excuse and we’re not going to use it as an excuse because everybody else has to deal with the same thing.”

On new baseball and recruiting to accommodate those changes…
“Overnight, we used a new baseball. There was no transition, no nothing. It was just some coaches got together in this country and decided we needed a new baseball and we got a new baseball. I think it affected us a little bit differently than other people because of the nature our ballpark plays. Everybody on our team who is successful is a sinker-oriented type of pitcher. Sinker guys are all about the amount of friction you can create of seams, and when the seams are lowered it’s going to affect everybody. We were not out in front of (the new baseballs). We felt like we were out in front of the bat situation. We flt like we knew what was going to happen with the bats that they were going to be deadened over the last five years, but we didn’t know within a one year period the seams were going to be as dramatic. That’s something that changes the game a little bit. The ball is going to fly a little bit more and it’s going to get through the infield a little bit quicker. If you look at power numbers overall it’s not a tremendous difference, but I think it’s something with this class have addressed. But at the same time, we got to play in a ball park that doesn’t yield a whole lot of power.”

On recruiting pitchers in regard to new baseball…
“I do think with the new ball situation, velocity is a much bigger issue than sink. In a recruiting standpoint, you’re trying to get the best player you can get. If that guy is really good and has a great career before he gets to you as a sinker guy, I think you don’t run away from that. It’s pretty apparent we had as good a breaking ball swing-and-miss stuff at the end of the game as anyone in the country for the last three or four years. That’s something we didn’t have much of so we know that’s something that has to be addressed and we have to have that at the end of ball games.”

On Zac Houston and Dakota Hudson
“Those guys have to be good for us. We have a lot of young arms coming into our program and we need those two guys who are going to be juniors to make a jump. I think both of them will tell you that. Both of them showed flashes this year, but we are going to need more than that. They’re the first guys who would tell you that. They want to right some things they perceived as wrongs during the course of this year. They want our program to make a jump, and they know personally they need to make jumps.”

On talent of current roster…
“I think there are a lot of factors with that. You look at a Luke Reynolds as one example. He is a guy who got punched in the face a little bit at the beginning of the year and even in the fall, then started remembering that he was a pretty good player coming in here. Guys like Luke Reynolds and a fully-healthy (Gavin) Collins, we had a freshman shortstop this year who I think has the chance to be a really good player, I think we have a dynamic center fielder who started to figure some things out as an offensive player in (Jacob) Robson. There are some positive things coming back. From a talent standpoint, we’re adding to the top of our program and the top of our league with the kids coming in, but we’ll know more about that after next Monday and Tuesday.”

On potential current players being drafted…
“You’re never 100 percent on that. We have some draft eligible guys. We’ll wait and see how that pans out also.”

On adidas bats…
“That’s an interesting subject because especially what’s happened within the last five years with the changing of the bats, it’s so hard to know what bat is performing more than anything. I think our kids like swinging the adidas bats. It’s never been an issue for me to look out there and see who is swinging what and make decisions based on that. Our kids our swinging adidas bats right now because they chose kind of in a testing period that’s what they wanted to swing. At this point, I don’t anticipate any changes there.”

On relationship with adidas…
“To be perfectly honest with you, that’s an administrative thing. I haven’t had any conversations with adidas. I really can’t answer that question. I know, in terms of their service to our university and our baseball program, they have been phenomenal and have been a really good group to work with. Outside of that I can’t speak to what has transpired over the last several months.”

On new facility in recruiting process…
“It’s been great. It’s not about our players, our coaching staff, it’s about our fans. Our fans deserve to have a venue that’s one of the better venues, if not the best venue in the entire country. I am a Mississippi State fan. I’ll tell you just to go the football games as an example, to see the facilities at football as a Mississippi State football fan who has been a football fan here for a long time, you stick your chest out and say, ‘this is a real SEC top-of-the-line venue.’ To me, the people who get the most of it are fans. That’s why I think with our facility here, the people who are going to get the most out of it are fans. There will be tremendous benefit for our program as well, but I think our fan base is very deserving to have a facility like this.”

On fundraising for new facility…
“It’s been very positive. We’ve had a ton of positive response and it’s gone very well, but I can’t speak to exact numbers. Just the response and doing speaking engagements and being in contact with Mississippi State people all over the country, it’s been a tremendous response.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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