CLEMSON -- Jack Leggett's intensity and single-mindedness are legendary around Clemson.
The Tigers' baseball coach knows only one way to play the game, and that's all-out - every time out. Whether or not he can be, at times, wound too tightly is open for debate. But there's no doubting his passion for Clemson baseball.
Just as there is no doubting his expectations.
When you walk into Leggett's office, the first thing you notice on the wall behind his desk is a grease board with the words "2005 Goals." Below them, in order, is this list:
- ACC Regular Season Champs
- ACC Tournament Champs
- Host NCAA Regional and Super Regional
- Get to Omaha
- Win College World Series
- Finish No. 1 in the Country
Interestingly, it's the same list which has been on the same grease board for over a year. Only the final number in the year was changed.
Earlier this week, Leggett and I sat for a chat in his office, and we opened the conversation talking about that very list:
DS: The goals never seem to change, do they?
Leggett: We want to win the ACC and want to win the ACC Championship, then host the Regional, the Super Regional, and go to Omaha to play in the College World Series. Our job is to do what we can every day to win a national championship. We talk about it every day with our players, and our coaches understand what we're after every day. It's pretty solid.
DS: What's your early feel for this team, approximately two weeks before the season opens?
Leggett: We have good team chemistry, a good bunch of young players, and I am very excited about this team and the future of this program. We could start as many as three freshman, we could start a freshman pitcher on the weekends and rely on another freshman pitcher that has a chance to be real good - David Kopp, who I think is ready to pitch for us now. Then you have Brad Chalk, Taylor Harbin and Stan Widmann, three freshman that I think are ready in some capacities. The future looks good. It was a very good recruiting class. (Pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Kevin O'Sullivan) does a great job recruiting, as everybody did, but he works hard at it. And Bradley (LeCroy), what he can do in the office, making phone calls. It pays off.
DS: This is the first time in a couple of years you haven't really been decimated by a large number of your signees turning pro before ever stepping on campus. That's got to be a pleasant change.
Leggett: Right. If you lose a couple of key guys like we did a couple years back it affects you the next year and the next. We were fortunate enough to keep some good ones and I'm sure they will contribute a lot this year.
DS: Are you comfortable with the idea of playing so many freshmen?
Leggett: That's not that unusual. Usually maybe one or two of them would be in there. We could play with a shortstop that's a freshman, a center fielder who's a freshman and a second baseman who's a freshman. It all works out...but Taylor stands out as one of those guys it's going to be tough to keep out of the lineup.
We could have three freshmen up the middle, which could be tough to do. But they're all seasoned players who have a lot of savvy to them. We'll see what happens with it. We still have a few more weeks left, so we'll let that sort its way out.
DS: Among your returning veterans, Kris Harvey is a guy who stands out. He pitches. He plays the outfield. How important is he to this team?
Leggett: He's going to be a two way player for us. He'll hit low in the order for us - third, fourth, fifth - something like that. At the same time he'll be one of our top starters if he pitches the way he can pitch. He has to continue to work on consistency, and he's a competitor and I think he has a tremendous future ahead of him...In what position or what capacity, I'm not sure.
DS: What will be the makeup of this team? Will you be a power club? Or will you be a pitching a defense team which must manufacture runs?
Leggett: We always say defense an hitting, those two things have to come with us every bus trip, every road trip, every night game, every day game. they have to come with us all the time. (We) emphasize that a lot in practice, knowing what they are supposed to do in certain situations, how to react and do a great job with the pitchers, which gives us a chance to have a good pitching staff.
But like I said, we don't have a margin for error because or schedule is so tough. We've got to be ready to pitch early and we play mid-week games. Some people don't. We start up a little bit later than most so (we play) every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday once we get rolling. But we still have to be an offensive team that is aggressive, runs the bases well, situational hits and executes. We are not going to be a Jurassic power team, but we do have some power. We have some strong kids. I think its some really good potential to have an exciting offensive team on the field.
DS: Let's talk about that schedule. It looks to be very challenging.
Leggett: If we are successful with our schedule we will have proven that we are a good, strong team, one of the better teams in the country. With our conference schedule, the Myrtle Beach Tournament, with West Virginia, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina the first weekend...Cal-Irvine is here the second weekend and they're an NCAA tournament team. East Carolina is a Super Regional team. Coastal is a Regional team. Then the next weekend we go to Auburn, which is an outstanding team of the SEC. It's a three game series there, then we come back with two games against South Carolina, one here, one there. We have midweek games against Western Carolina, two more against Georgia, two more against South Carolina; teams that always play us tough. Two more with Coastal Carolina later in the year, there are no breaks.Then four or five of the teams in the ACC that we play are in the top 22 in the country. It's a very challenging schedule, one I like to put in front of our team and our coaches, and hopefully the challenge will pay off for us.
DS: Some teams go soft on their pre-conference schedule. You've never approached a schedule that way. How did that philosophy come about?
Leggett: I like to compete against the best...I think the games should be played so if you play bad you have the chance to lose, and if you play well you have the chance to win. I don't like the idea of playing bad and knowing you are still going to win. That doesn't teach a good lesson to the players. You may show some stats up there to make them feel well about themselves and gain some confidence, and there may be some merit to that. But that's just the way I am. I want to play against better competition. I think it brings out the best in your athletes.
Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger and TigerNet. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.