With all four starters gone it's the chance for newcomers to make an impact for the Tigers and one of those is true freshman Jarred Smith from Lake Wales, Fla. Expected to be the opening day starter at the hot corner, Smith said getting to this moment has been a whole lot of fun for him as he gets introduced to life in the SEC.
"It's very exciting," Smith said. "We have been practicing and scrimmaging, but you want to start playing against other teams. It has been fun competing against everybody. You don't expect to come out and try to get one spot, you just try to work on your game and get better. If it all works out then it's good."
At 6-0, 190, Smith is a physical player with a good glove that has the ability to put the ball in play consistently at the plate. An Under Armour Preseason All-American as a senior, he hit .443 after hitting .467 as a junior. He said making the jump from high school to Auburn has been exactly what he expected, starting with the speed of the game.
"It's just the quickness of the game," Smith said. "Guys are a lot faster here and you don't have as much time. You've got guys getting down there quick. You've don't have the chance to make any mistakes. You've just got to get the ball and get rid of it."
Smith could be one of four new starters on the infield as the Tigers are expected to open with sophomore Zach Alvord or transfer Dan Glevenyak at shortstop, former outfielder Creede Simpson at second base, and junior college transfer Garrett Cooper at first. With very little experience anywhere in the field Smith said they've leaned on a veteran pitching staff to help them find their way in the fall and spring.
"It has been good," Smith said. "Those guys have been great. They kind of take you under their wing and let you know the ropes of how Coach Pawlowski wants his program run and what he expects out of you in practice and how he expects you to work in the weight room. They put you in line and let you know how it's done.
"They help you a lot with the mental aspect of things like what pitches guys are going to try to throw you. They help you find your weaknesses so Coach Link (Jarrett) and Coach Ty (Megahee) down in the cage can help us out."
Smith and the newcomers will need all the help they can get at the plate as they try to get used to swinging a much different bad than they've ever used before. With the restrictions forcing teams to approach the game much more guarded at the plate Smith said in the end that's going to fit this Auburn team very well.
"It has been a little bit different," Smith said. "You always want to hit line drives, but this is my first time swinging these bats. They're definitely not as hot as the old ones. You have to level it out. Back when you had the other bats you could depend on the home run. Now you have to manufacture runs. There are guys that can still hit them, but not as many as there used to be hit.
"It's going to be real fun," he added. "We have a really fast team. We've got guys that can bunt to both sides of the field and they can really run. We've got to put pressure on people and make them make mistakes."
Auburn opens the 2012 season this weekend as the Tigers face future SEC opponent Missouri at Plainsman Park. Game times for the series are 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.