Less than a month into the job, LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson has done his best to show off some of the recruiting buffer that helped him get the job at Baton Rouge.
It is not easy to take over a list and keep the talent that only last year was in a super-regional and filled with star potential. But not only was Johnson able to get the returning stars to buy into what the program will look like under his leadership, he was able to convince a trio of veterans to return for another trip.
Add more transfers he has been able to land in the portal, and LSU faces a good problem with having too much talent. The latest additions poured in on Friday as the Tigers landed two more boxes out of the Arizona transfer portal.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Riley Cooper and Bryce Collins both announced their transfers to the Tiger pitching staff for next season. After appearing in seven games as a true rookie in 2019, Collins did not appear in any games during the shortened 2020 season or in 2021 when he struggled through injury.
Cooper, a hard-hitting left-hander, went 3-0 for Arizona as a freshman in 2021 with a 4.88 ERA and 20 strikes in 29 appearances. With the two pitchers on board, LSU has added a total of three Arizona players, including All-American Jacob Berry, as well as pitcher Eric Reyzelman and catcher Tyler McManus.
When he was looking for a transfer player, Johnson said that the main focus area comes down to evaluation. Is this a player who can come in and not only help win, but handle the pressure from the SEC?
“The whole program where we are and what we need to succeed, what pieces, we can add to that,” Johnson said. “And then it has been very deliberate in terms of what we try to do, how we try to do it. Everyone wants to come to LSU, getting the right player is the most important thing, and the transition portal, whether we all like it or not , is going to be a part of college athletics right now.And in this case it gave us an opportunity to add some pieces to the team that needed to be improved, so that has been our focus and will be our focus until we feel we has put together the best team we possibly can, in a short time. “
Outfielder Mitchell Sanford joined player Zach Arnold in hitting the transfer portal, but the return of Gavin Dugas, Devin Fontenot and Ma’Khail Hilliard gives this team a great mix of veteran leadership and rising talent. Johnson talked about the balance he now faces in making some tough decisions with a list that is a little over the limit.
“The NCAA limit for the first game of the season in February is 40,” Johnson said. “It’s a little touch and feeling right now, we’re not too far over, but maybe a little over it right now, and we’ll work our way through it all the rest of the summer in the fall.”