Mississippi State has a wealth of experience returning in its outfield this spring.
The Bulldogs have six players coming back that combined to start 129 games in the outfield during the 2015 season.
Redshirt junior Jacob Robson headlines the group having started 50 games in centerfield last year and has started 79 of the 119 games in which he has played in his career. The speedy Canadian was also MSU’s leading hitter last year with a .324 average with five doubles, a home run, nine RBI and 21 stolen bases.
“He had a really nice year for us a year ago,” said MSU coach John Cohen. “He is a great runner and he is as athletic as any player in the Southeastern Conference. There is no question that for us to be as good as we can be, Jacob Robson has to be in the middle of what we are trying to do.”
Junior Reid Humphreys also returns having started 25 games in left field and one in right last season. Humphreys will continue his role in the outfield as well as at third base, designated hitter and the team’s closer on the mound.
Last season, Humphreys hit .247 with eight doubles, five homers and 27 RBIs. He is the team’s top returning power threat.
“I think he is poised to have a really good year for us this year, both on the mound and as a positional player,” Cohen said.
The Diamond Dogs must replace its primary right fielder from a year ago as Jake Vickerson was lost to graduation. Redshirt junior Cody Brown drew a dozen starts in right as well as 23 in left and three in center last season.
Brown sported the team’s second highest average at .309 with 14 doubles, two triples, a homer and drove in 16 runs.
Senior Mike Smith was State’s season-opening starter in right field last year and is also back in the mix after an injury-plagued 2015. A hip flexor injury suffered in his first at bat limited Smith to just 27 games and eight starts, hitting .208 with a double, triple and four RBIs in 27 plate appearances.
With Gavin Collins concentrating his time between catcher and third base this year, redshirt sophomore Brent Rooker becomes the only other returning player on the roster with experience in the outifeld.
Rooker started two games in left field with his other 18 starts coming as the designated hitter. The 6-foot-3 Rooker batted .257 with three doubles, two home runs and a dozen RBIs during his first season on the field.
Junior Luke Reynolds could also see action in the outfield while also working as a third baseman.
Cohen has a trio of newcomers that are trying to find their roles in the outfield as well. Juco transfer Tanner Poole joins true freshmen Jake Mangum and Brant Blaylock this spring.
Poole is a former Amory and Itawamba Community College standout but will likely redshirt this season.
“Tanner Poole is a very talented athlete,” Cohen said. “When his level of baseball awareness and instincts get to the level of his athleticism, he will be a great player. He might be the fastest kid I have ever coached. He can fly. He has arm strength. He has power. He has worked a lot on his swing. I think he could be one of the better players in our program.”
Mangum is a three-time All-American helping lead Jackson Prep to three straight state titles. The switch-hitter batted .504 as a senior. Blaylock is a two-time All-American at DeSoto Central, where he hit .349 and had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage as a senior helping lead the Jaguars to a state championship.