Baseball coach Jay Johnson is still keeping a lot of secret as his first season at LSU draws closer. He is sometimes hesitant to name specific players, leaving room for season preparation to make formation decisions.
But Johnson had a big reveal on Wednesday about how name, image and likeness are already affecting the program, giving LSU more leeway with its grants.
Johnson told the Baton Rouge Rotary Club on Wednesday that NIL capabilities are broad, and that while the NCAA hasn’t made many specific rules about it, he’s open to adapting to the era.
LSU has already benefited immensely.
“I had a prominent player on our team who made some money in terms of name, image and likeness, and his father called me and said, ‘Coach, I know you’re trying to put together a roster. We’re going to give you the support scholarship for this year,” Johnson said.
“I don’t think the NCAA really understood what they were doing with this and it’s going to cause some trouble, but whatever it’s been – the transfer portal, NIL – my job is I can either cry about it or I can figure out how to do it.” do to do it right for us.”
Johnson didn’t name the athlete whose family returned his scholarship, but moves like these can have a major impact on high-powered baseball programs, such as LSU.
University baseball teams will be awarded 11.7 grants, which can be split into a maximum number of 27 athletes out of a roster of 35 players – all of whom must receive at least 25% of the entry fee.
Customizing the pitching staff
Perhaps the #1 question regarding LSU in Johnson’s first season is what the pitching staff looks like. Johnson said the Tigers had few left-handed pitchers when he started, so he recruited experienced left-handers Riley Cooper (Arizona) and Trey Shaffer (Southeast Louisiana). He named both as pitchers to watch.
To stack the bullpen with more experience, Johnson added right-handers Bryce Collins (Arizona), Eric Reyzelman (San Francisco), and Paul Gervase (Pittsburgh Community College, Wake Tech CC).
“We’re in an interesting situation and probably different from many of Coach (Paul) Mainieri’s teams and Coach (Skip) Bertman’s teams: we don’t have a man who was ‘a man’ on the pitching staff,” Johnson said.
“What we tried to do quickly was to add a lot of depth, so you can see some longer games this year. Our plan is to use more people than you probably see traditionally, if it takes five, six or seven guys to get 27.” My goal is to get the pitchers in position so they can be successful, No. 1. And No. 2 is not to ask them more than they can.”
Cooper, Johnson joked, is a “big boy” who is six feet tall and 264 pounds. Gervase is 6-foot-8.
West Coast to Gulf Coast
Johnson had a funny anecdote about the first time he was approached about the LSU job, when the person on the other end of the line said, “I don’t know if Skip (Bertman) wants a West Coast guy.”
But then Johnson’s Arizona Wildcats defeated Ole Miss in the Super Regionals, winning the first game 9-3, dropping the second 12-3 and finishing it off with a 16-3 win. And then he got another call about LSU.
Although Johnson is from California and has had coaching stints along the West Coast, he said his hometown of Oroville is a “high-end, working-class, working environment” 150 miles north of San Francisco.
“I’m full of Louisiana. I survived the hurricane. When I landed, Coach Mainieri made me eat alligator, so I did,” Johnson said. “After that I spent some time on the toilet.”
When it comes to the diamond, he sees no difference. Regardless of the region, he said, the standard is winning.
“I do believe that the comparison between West Coast and SEC and Big 12 is a bit of an exaggeration,” Johnson said. “Big fields, small fields, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we have a complete arsenal to prevent the (opposing) team from scoring points and to complete the attack to be able to score points.”
The biggest challenge, he said, is the same: the MLB draft and recruiting elite players who could skip college.
“I’ve come up with some pretty good arguments as to why it’s a good idea to turn down $2 million and come to LSU, and if you guys (fans) have anything more to add to that, I’ll take it,” Johnson said.