OXFORD -- Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco wants to see more quickness and toughness from his team in 2014.
He's confident in the quick part - There's more depth too, he says - but the toughness is TBA.
He'll get no help in either department from former Pascagoula standout Senquez Golson.
That's not for a lack of trying on Golson's part.
The Rebels open the season Friday at 5:30 in the first of three games at Stetson.
A starting cornerback with the Ole Miss football team, Golson approached Bianco about a month ago for another go at baseball. After turning down a rich pro baseball offer from Boston, he had attempted to play both sports as a freshman before quickly turning his attention to football full-time.
Golson is again back at football full-time after a hamstring injury kept him from competing for playing time.
"A guy hasn't played baseball in a year and half, pulls his hamstring and has to sit out a month, the chances of him getting on the field and contributing right away aren't real good," Bianco said. "The best thing for him right now is to be what we call a non-roster player. He can practice baseball, he just can't practice with the team.
"He'll come over and hit with Coach Godwin and take fly balls when he can this spring when he's healthy."
Bianco expects Golson to pursue baseball in January of 2015 after his football career is complete.
Ole Miss went 38-24 last season, 15-15 in the SEC, and exited the Raleigh, N.C., Regional without having ever played top-seeded N.C. State.
It was a less than stellar
finish after a 21-3 start due in large part to the Rebels' inability to make the biggest plays at the most critical times.
The Rebels were 7-11 in one-run games last season, 6-17 when trailing after six innings.
Bianco says new strength coach Ben Fleming has pushed his players in ways they've not been pushed before both physically and mentally.
A series of competitions in events like tug-of-war or simple foot races have been added to workouts with the hope of increasing the toughness Bianco seeks.
"All of our coaches throughout the fall were at our workouts watching us do every rep, seeing who was winning those races in conditioning runs," said Will Allen, who returns to catcher this season as a senior.
He describes the near-misses of 2013 this way: "We had a ton of awesome players. We were close as a team, but obviously there was something missing."
At a press conference earlier this week Bianco cited an eighth-ranked recruiting class and more depth. He also noted the absence of big names and preseason All-Americans. "We've had our share," he said.
The SEC coaches noted that absence also when the picked the Rebels sixth in the Western Division. It's the lowest starting point assigned by Bianco's peers since his first season in 2001.
He's hoping increased toughness will lead to a higher finish.
Infielder Austin Anderson pointed to Vanderbilt as model for the Rebels.
The Commodores were ranked No. 2 last year when they came to Oxford and won three times, twice by a run, once by two runs and once in extras.
"You just watch Vanderbilt last year. They just seemed confident. There was something about them that they knew they were going to win, that you thought they were going to beat you."