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Jan. 29, 2016

Head Coach Chad Holbrook
Opening statement…

“A new spring is upon us. Baseball season is about three weeks away. We’re excited about getting out there together as group and healthy, probably for the first time since we had a team meeting here in September. The guys are bouncing off the walls and ready to get out there and compete against each other. We get started today, and we have three scrimmages this weekend. We hope to have 11 scrimmages over the course of the preseason before we crank it up opening day. We have some difficult decisions to make and some competition going on out there between some pretty good players. We look forward to watching them perform. Obviously we’re going to be blessed this weekend with some great weather, which makes it even more exciting. This creates an environment for us to get a more fair evaluation of the kids that will be performing. We’re excited about our players and what they did in the fall, what they accomplished academically and what they did in the community. Now it’s time to strap it on and play baseball. I’m excited about the team we are going to be able to put on the field. It all starts on February 19. First things first, today we get to see our guys scrimmage and compete.”

On last year’s disappointment fueling this year’s season…
“I think there is a sense of urgency around here. I think our returning players were disappointed with the way last year went, but we have some new guys that weren’t here. Those new guys don’t know what happened last year. They didn’t experience it. As far as the guys that were here last year, I feel great about their leadership. I feel great about what DC Arendas, Clarke Schmidt and Marcus Mooney have done in the locker room. I feel great about the leadership they have given to younger guys or new guys in the weight room, on the practice field and in the cages. There is certainly a sense of urgency. All I have to go off of is what I have seen with this group of players. Since September, they have been great to work with and they have worked extremely hard. They’ve shown signs of being a special team and that’s why we’re excited. Every coach in the country feels good about his team today. I’ve been really close to this group, as far as every practice, every workout and everything they have done off the field. I have a good feeling about the way they’re going to perform and the product we will put on the field. It’s going to be a team that our fans and followers will be proud of.”

On how many guys are competing to be in the weekend rotation…
“We’re going to have some new guys on weekends this year. We have some decisions to make. One of the things that will happen over these 11 scrimmages is that we will have to make a lot of decisions in regards to our pitching staff. There are a lot of talented kids and new faces. They’re all pretty close in the way that they have performed. Right now, Clarke Schmidt has been standing out. He is much improved from a year ago and obviously has some weekend experience. He has a great arm, great demeanor and great work ethic. He’s definitely a competitor. We feel great about the talent that Braden Webb brings. He’s talented, but he’s a freshman. I like the fact that he is a little older than most freshmen. He has got great stuff. The good news is that I feel good about the talent that we have and the depth of our pitchers. I just have to put a talented kid in a role that benefits both him and the team. That’s a lot better problem to have than having a pitching staff that lacks depth.”

On having a roster that most players haven’t played a game under him…
“Having guys who haven’t played for me before is both scary and exciting. A lot of these kids understand the expectations that are before them at the University of South Carolina, and that’s why they came here. All I can do is go off of what I have observed. It’s a new year and a new team. We have a new team every year in college baseball. There might be some unfamiliar faces to other people, but they are familiar to me because I recruited them and know how they perform. I have a good feeling about the type of team we will have. I’m excited for everyone to see what I have seen in these guys, from a recruiting standpoint, over the last couple of years. I don’t think one person on our roster has been to the College World Series and hopefully we can change that in a few months.”

On Taylor Widener
“I don’t know his role yet, but he’s healthy. His bullpens have been great. He’s bouncing back from his bullpens, which is always a concern when you have a procedure on your elbow. He’s gotten over that psychological hurdle of having a procedure done on his elbow. We love his arm, and he has great stuff. Right now I’m leaning more toward putting him in a starting role. Whether that role is on the weekend or not, he will have to pitch well to do that. He’s going to have that opportunity because he has the experience, but he’s going to have to improve on some things too. It’s really early to tell and all of this could change next weekend. There are just a lot of questions to be answered because we haven’t seen a lot of these guys perform.”

On Dom Thompson-Williams
“He’s healthy and ready to go. I love Dom Thompson-Williams. He’s a great kid and a great presence in the locker room. It’s very rare for newcomers to come in and assume a leadership role. I think everyone in our locker room respects Dom, and half of them might be afraid of him too. He’s a leader and a worker. He wants to play and he wants to win. He comes from a winning program and that’s all he knows. I can assure you that he will factor in on Opening Day if he is healthy. He’s one of our most explosive athletes. He has baseball savvy and instincts. I’m glad he’s on our team. I think he has a chance to have a special year for us. He doesn’t have to carry us or be an All-American, even though he has the ability to do that. I’m just excited to give him the opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference, which has always been a dream of his. I have a feeling that he will do some special things for us this year.”