This fall, the 11th-year Arkansas baseball coach wants to learn more.
The Razorbacks begin fall practices Friday at Baum Stadium, opening a 45-day window in which the team can practice 29 times. All practices are open to the public.
While many players are established on the Razorbacks' 43-man fall roster, several newcomers have plenty to prove. Arkansas has 17 fresh faces on-campus - 12 true freshmen and five junior college transfers. In addition, the Razorbacks have seven players on the roster who redshirted last season.
"I want them to contribute a lot as freshmen," Van Horn said. "They don't have to start, they don't have to shoulder the load; I just want to see those guys contribute. From what I've seen just watching these guys around here, they're definitely going to contribute and there is going to be a lot of competition from the younger guys."
Because of the turnover, Van Horn expects this fall to be much different than the one following the Razorbacks' last run to the College World Series in 2009. That year, Arkansas had seven returning starters in the field - including future first-round pick Zack Cox and second-round pick Brett Eibner - and a future second-round pick, Drew Smyly, returning on the mound.
"I think this fall has a little more feel of the 2011 fall," Van Horn said, "where we've got to see some guys play, try to develop some roles with the pitchers or watch the young guys make a push.
"The 2009 fall was a little bit of a boring fall for us coaches because we knew most of the position players. We were just trying to figure out a few things, trying to get better."
The Razorbacks must replace three multi-year starters in the infield this season - third baseman Matt Reynolds, second baseman Bo Bigham and shortstop Tim Carver.
"We've got some good young infielders in here," Van Horn said. "Brett McAfee is a shortstop, tremendous athlete and can play second, too. He can play center field for us and is probably one of the fastest guys on the team.
"We have Brian Anderson back who played pretty well this summer up in the Northwoods League. He can play short or third. He also could be our starting right fielder, center fielder or left fielder. We do have some options there."
Anderson was a regular starter by the end of the regular season as a freshman in 2012, finishing the campaign with a .283 batting average, two home runs and 11 RBIs.
Arkansas also returns Jacob Mahan, who has experience at second base and hit .301 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in the California Collegiate League over the summer. Van Horn said junior college transfer Johnny Tolson and freshmen Willie Schwanke and Isaac Hellbusch will get looks this fall.
Eric Fisher, who played some at first base in 2010 before redshirting last season, presents Arkansas with another infield option. Van Horn called returning two-year starting first baseman Dominic Ficociello the best defender at his position in the SEC, but noted Fisher wasn't far behind.
"Fisher is left-handed, covers up that four-hole with his glove," Van Horn said. "He can hit and he can play a corner position if you wanted him to.
"Dominic obviously can play first and I think he has his eye on third a little bit. I think he can probably play second if we really worked him at it. I don't know how he feels about it. I kind of mentioned it to him, but I haven't seen him out there working at it and that's kind of the way I do things. I'm not going to make somebody move somewhere."
Fisher was rated one of the top prospects in California over the summer, batting .281 with two home runs, 29 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
"As a true freshman, we were planning to redshirt him, but he came back after Christmas and was hitting the ball outstanding in our scrimmages," Van Horn said. "We thought he was going to be too valuable to redshirt. Once the real games started it just didn't happen for him. Ficociello got hot and stayed in the lineup every day at first.
"We tried to DH Fisher and do a few things, but you could see it wasn't there. Looking back, I told him last summer that I wished I had redshirted him the year before."
Outfield was a revolving door for the Razorbacks last season and it appears the three spots are up-for-grabs again this fall. While seniors Jacob Morris and Matt Vinson return, Van Horn expects younger players to vie for playing time.
Among them are Anderson and Tyler Spoon, who hit 10 home runs this summer after redshirting last season. Joe Serrano, who was Arkansas' leading hitter as a freshman in the 2012 postseason, also returns after batting .302 in the Northwoods League.
"Last year he showed he has some good plate discipline and he can bunt," Van Horn said. "He's a leadoff-type guy if Ficociello can hit again. If Ficociello struggles, we might have to plug Serrano in as our three-hole guy.
"Serrano kept hurting his hamstring at the end of the regular season last year. It probably cost him 20 games. When he finally got over it, you could just see what was there. He's got a fearless mentality, a good eye, a good swing, knows how to hit the ball down the middle - I'm impressed with his at-bats."
Among other options in the outfield are redshirt freshman Parker Gibson and redshirt junior Jimmy Bosco, who lost nearly 20 pounds over the summer. Freshman Garrett Rucker is a great athlete, but was only cleared to practice last week after an off-season shoulder injury.
At catcher, Jake Wise is the lone returning player with collegiate experience after John Clay Reeves transferred in the off-season. He will be pushed in the fall by redshirt freshman Jean Ramirez and true freshman Blake Baxendale.
"Blake has power," Van Horn said. "He can play first, he can catch, he can DH; I think his bat can keep him in the lineup. This is the year that I really feel like some younger players can get in the lineup.
"I have no problem playing freshmen; I just don't want them to carry us."
Once again, pitching looks strong for Arkansas heading into the fall. The Razorbacks lost ace DJ Baxendale and reliever Nolan Sanburn - a second-round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics - from last season's bullpen, but still return several contributors from a staff that recorded the second-lowest earned run average in school history.
Arkansas looked particularly strong in the 2012 NCAA postseason, recording three shutouts - including one in the deciding game of the Waco Super Regional - and allowing more than three earned runs just twice in 10 games.
While Ryne Stanek was recently ranked the No. 2 prospect for the 2013 MLB Draft by ESPN.com and appears to be the leading candidate to take over on Fridays, it was Colby Suggs who turned the most heads this summer.
Suggs recorded a 1.37 regular-season ERA in 19 2/3 innings with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. The junior right-hander added two wins in the postseason, helping his team to the league championship.
"The fall for me will be about working on a change-up and just continue to learn how to pitch in a game setting by myself, instead of having to lean on Coach (Dave) Jorn calling pitches," Suggs said. "I'm also working on how to lead. I haven't had to lead my whole time here, so I need to step up my leadership to get to where we need to be."
Van Horn said he expects Suggs will continue to be utilized out of the bullpen, where he flourished last season with a 7-1 record and a team-best 1.38 ERA. Suggs' fastball reached 99 miles per hour at one point last season and he showed good command.
"My strength and conditioning is so much better. I stayed over Christmas last year and threw bullpens. I got around the right people in the locker room helped me; picking the brains of DJ and Trent (Daniel), asking how they had been successful.
"I wanted to be part of that elite pitching staff we had last year. That motivated me."
Other returning pitchers include right-handers Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin, and left-handers Cade Lynch, Ty Wright and Trent Daniel.
After throwing several combined innings between last season and the summer, many of Arkansas' established pitchers will spend time resting this fall, leaving the door open for newcomers to display their talents.
Colin Posche, a left-hander who turned down a fifth-round offer from the Baltimore Orioles, could potentially be a starter next season, Van Horn said, while right-hander Trey Killian has good arm strength.
"I tell these guys, 'Don't waste your freshman year being timid or thinking you're just a freshman,'" Van Horn said. "The next thing you know, it's the end of the year and they're pretty good, wondering why they didn't do it earlier."
Arkansas also welcomes in a pair of in-state pitchers who transferred from junior colleges - left-hander Jalen Beeks and right-hander Jackson Lowery.
Lowery, expected to be a set-up pitcher, went 5-0 with a 2.84 ERA while pitching in the Northwoods League over the summer.