Golson transitions from gridiron to ballpark for Ole Miss

By Hugh Kellenberger/The Clarion-Ledger

OXFORD — A year ago, Senquez Golson signed with Ole Miss to play both football and baseball. Six months ago, he turned down $1.4 million from the Boston Red Sox to stay in school.

Now here he is, shagging fly balls and taking his turn at the plate.

Golson is about as natural an athlete as they come, and excelled at both sports throughout his youth. But saying you’re going to play two sports in college is one thing; doing it is another.

“He’s very athletic, but not a raw athlete,” coach Mike Bianco said. “He’s a baseball player. Watching him swing the bat, he just had to get more reps.

“He’s got to be more consistent offensively. He’s already improved defensively. Coach (Kirk) McConnell made a comment that he really improved a lot in just one week.”

That’s the focus right now for Golson, as it is really with most any freshman: just get better.

“The biggest thing with Senquez is just getting a routine, from early hitting to taking fly balls live to learning how to bunt a little bit,” assistant coach Cliff Godwin said. “There have been a lot of things we’ve thrown at him in just a couple of weeks and the biggest thing for him is just to keep learning.”

Many of his teammates got a lot of this instruction during the fall, but Golson was busy over at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium: He earned a starting job at cornerback midway through the season and stuck. He managed to get over to batting cages once or twice a week for some practice, but that’s about it.

Godwin said, though, that Golson has been able to handle the steep learning curve in advance of the Feb. 17 season opener at TCU.

“He’s a great athlete and he’s catching on pretty quickly,” Godwin said.

Golson played all three outfield positions during a pair of intrasquad games last weekend. He’s not guaranteed playing time at any of them, but he’s quickly improving on defense.

“I feel like coach McConnell has been helping me with my drop stops and routes on the ball and stuff like that,” Golson said.

Bianco said that it’s normal for freshman outfielders to have to learn quite a bit about how to play the field.

“In high school baseball, because there’s usually one coach and maybe one assistant, there’s positions and things that are neglected,” Bianco said. “Not because it’s their fault, but just because of time. One of the things is defensive play in the outfield and at first base.

“A lot of times you get outfielders that they make such a big jump in their first semester because nobody has really coached them.”

Will Golson’s improvements be obvious to those who show up to Swayze Field and watch him? Probably not, but it doesn’t mean they are not there.

“But when you watch him drill after drill and you watch his breaks and you watch his angle on the ball,” Bianco said. “We’re certainly glad he’s out here.”

Former coach Houston Nutt was the one who signed him, but Golson said new coach Hugh Freeze seems to be OK with the plan.

“I haven’t really talked to him as much about spring football yet,” Golson said, “but it’s going good.”