BRAD LOCKE – MSU: Baseball bound for Omaha?

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

I’m no Nostradamus, but then, Nostradamus was a fraud. Despite my limited prognosticating abilities, I will nonetheless take a stab at what might transpire for MSU’s big three teams during the 2013 calendar year. Why? Because it’s fun, plus it gives you some ammo for later on when you want to criticize me.
Hey, just trying to serve the reader.
So here we go with my vague predictions:
Baseball
John Cohen, who’s entering his fifth year as head coach, has this program on the right trajectory. The Bulldogs have made two consecutive NCAA regional appearances and won the SEC Tournament last season.
The pitching staff, MSU’s greatest weakness when Cohen took over, was one of the best in the country last season. Ace Chris Stratton is gone to the pros, but a lot of experience returns to the mound.
The question is whether State can find a dominant weekend guy like Stratton. It’s unlikely anyone can match Stratton’s numbers, but guys like Kendall Graveman, Evan Mitchell and Brandon Woodruff are all strong candidates.
The bullpen, led by All-American closer Jonathan Holder, should be especially strong.
What needs to improve is the offense. State hit .251 as a team last season, and that ranked 11th in the SEC. A lot of bats return, and Cohen is expecting to see more production at the plate.
This could be the year MSU returns to the College World Series – if the bats come through.
Basketball
MSU entered SEC play with a 5-7 mark, and it has already been quite the ride for first-year head coach Rick Ray. Attrition following last season, plus injuries and a couple of dismissals leading up to and during this season, have conspired against the Bulldogs.
Junior Jalen Steele recently returned from a wrist injury, but senior Wendell Lewis could be out for the season with a fractured patella. Youth is having its day, and while that could pay off down the line, it’s going to make for a forgettable season.
Expect a quick exit from the SEC Tournament and then a focus on next year.
Football
Despite going 8-5, this past season felt like a disappointment. Probably because MSU beat only one Division I-A team with a winning record – Middle Tennessee State.
There has already been change on the coaching staff, with cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith leaving for the same job at Auburn, and Geoff Collins being promoted to defensive coordinator in place of Chris Wilson.
Dan Mullen has to find better play along both lines and has some key holes to fill at receiver and cornerback.
The coming season should tell us a whole lot about how well Mullen has procured and developed talent.
If this program doesn’t want to stagnate, it has to exceed this season’s eight-win total. Looking at the schedule, I don’t think that happens.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers MSU for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.