By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Sometimes good things come in threes.
New Ole Miss hitting coach Cliff Godwin hopes he finds the good next season in what he defines as the three necessary components of a batting order. He’s confident he will.
“You have to have three or four guys who are going to hit in the heart of the lineup and have the ability to drive the ball out of the park. Then you’re going to have to have three guys who can run and put pressure on a defense that way,” Godwin said. “Then a couple of other guys may not have speed or a power tool, they just hit. Then you can hit-and-run and do some things.”
Godwin, with previous stops at Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and LSU, was hired away from Central Florida earlier this month as Matt Mossberg’s replacement. When not on the road recruiting he’s spent time evaluating video study of the Rebels’ returning players.
He inherits a group that was fourth in the SEC in home runs but 11th in total bases and runs scored.
The Rebels struggled to get down bunts and advance runners and made an uncomfortably high number of outs on the bases.
These are things Godwin – who will coach third base – can help with, but Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco warns against categorizing his new assistant.
“When you talk to hitting coaches, I don’t think anyone really wants to box themselves in like that,” Bianco said.
It’s that part of the box though – the “small ball” – where the Rebels appear to have the greatest need.
Godwin can help in improvement, Bianco believes, by helping players develop their complete game, thereby making them more confident.
“Some of the things we failed in last year, we could have coached better, but our lack of confidence hampered us,” Bianco said. “You talk about getting a bunt down and getting a guy in from third, you have to have that toughness and confidence to be able to execute those things when the game is on the line.”
Often a team’s personality is dictated by its personnel, and a key element in improving an Ole Miss team that failed to reach the SEC and NCAA tournaments for the first time since 2002 may come in the signing class.
Some newcomers are arriving this summer, and some are still pondering their futures in light of the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month.
At present, only one signee – junior college catcher Ryan Hornback – has opted out, but a few others have decisions to make.
MLB teams have until Aug. 15 to sign their draft picks.
Enough of the class has taken shape for Godwin to have an idea of what offense will look like in 2012.
“We’re going to be way more athletic than they were this past year. The reason they didn’t steal a lot of bases is because they didn’t have a lot of base stealers,” he said.
UCF was third in Conference USA with 65 stolen bases; Ole Miss was tied for 10th in the SEC with 44.
Godwin was also recruiting coordinator at UCF, where he posted two top 20-ranked classes.
Bianco said Godwin’s recruiting success is a bonus but wasn’t deal-breaker in trying to find the right fit to improve the offense.
Assistant coach Carl Lafferty is the recruiting coordinator, though Godwin will be heavily involved. He scouted games in three different towns within the past week before flying to Florida Thursday on another recruiting trip.
Godwin emphasizes the need for a complete offense.
“Our team at UCF this year, one of the coaches in the SEC told Carl, ‘That was an SEC-type offense.’ One through nine, I don’t think a pitching coach was ever able to say, ‘This guy’s an easy out,'” Godwin said. “I don’t want our guys to be looked upon that way.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.