What are your thoughts about the infield overall and individually?
"In terms of the infield the most compelling factor is the dual combination of Jarrod Parks and Nick Vickerson. Those two are among our best hitters and are two senior leaders. We toyed with putting Vickerson in the outfield during the first of the fall. He steadily got better defensively during the fall but Nick is a proven SEC hitter. And he might be our best overall base-runner as well. So, we have to find opportunities for him to play. Parks was very solid at third base but also showed us that he can play some first base as well.
"The really exciting thing for me is to watch the progress of (senior shortstop) Jonathan Ogden offensively. We know he is going to be a very good defender but he was much, much better offensively. He can't be a 50 strikeout guy. He simply has to be a guy who can put the ball in play. His bunting skills have gotten a lot better. He is just a more complete player now and is a great leader for us as well.
"Adam Frazier did a really nice job for us as a (true) freshman. I feel very, very comfortable with him defensively. I think he can play short for us if we need him to.
"(Sophomore) Sam Frost is an outstanding defender. He had one really poor game in the (fall) World Series defensively. But outside of that I felt like he had a great fall. I think he has as much range as any defender in the SEC. And I think he turns the double play as well as any defender in the SEC. He has also really made some nice adjustments to his swing. I think he is going to be more of an offensive threat for us. He's also a power runner who can really get to first base.
"(True freshmen) Demarcus Henderson and Taylor Stark are two guys that we have to get involved. I don't know what capacity right now, maybe in the outfield, maybe some second base play. The fact that Henderson is a right-handed hitter and Frost is a left-handed hitter, that gives us some flexibility. And Taylor Stark is a guy who didn't get to play for us due to blowing his hamstring out early on in the fall. That is very unusual because I hadn't had a player blow out his hamstring in eight years. And that is because we are very, very careful how we handle hamstrings and the way we train. While he has a very violent running style that needs to be toned down a little bit, he is a great runner. He runs a 6.4 sixty. Taylor is a very gifted athlete who can throw it 90 (miles per hour) off the mound, he can really run and I think he's going to hit. We have to find a way to get him involved.
"(True freshman) Brayden Jones really swung the bat well. Brayden's issue will be us finding a spot for him defensively. We have two seniors at third base and that is probably his best defensive position. He really hasn't turned the corner as a first baseman yet, but from the time he stepped on this campus to the end of this fall he was very, very consistent offensively. I think he has a chance to be good offensively.
"(True freshman) Garrett Pitts is a guy who really offers flexibility. The thing we really like about him is he can play infield spots as well as be a catcher in an emergency situation. I feel very, very good about our catching situation. We feel very fortunate that we have two senior catchers who we feel are very, very good players. (Plus, we have true freshman) Hunter Renfroe, who I feel may be one of the most talented freshmen in the SEC, and (junior college transfer) Brett Bozeman who is a really solid guy."
What are your thoughts about the first base position?
"When you lose a guy like Connor Powers, it's not easy to replace him. Connor got a lot of attention due to his offensive ability but he was an exceptional defensive first baseman. We have a lot of different guys at that position. As a group, we have spent a lot of time trying to get them better and show them everything that goes into first base play. It's an area that we have not locked down and we don't know who is going to play first base, although we have some nice options."
One of those options is true freshman Daryl Norris.
"Daryl, as a first baseman, has progressed really nicely. He is a guy who is not as tall so he's not as big of a target as some of the other guys. As far as his range, that's fine because he's played infield virtually his entire life. Defensively, balls in the dirt is something that he needs to continue working on and getting better at. For a freshman, he is way beyond his years offensively. He rarely swings at bad pitches or swings and misses. He has a good feel for the strike zone."
Jarrod Parks also played first base.
"Jarrod had an amazing fall. I wish we could capture his swing and save it and pull it back out when the season starts. He took as good of swings as any batter on our entire team. He is a guy who works very hard. Defensively, he does a great job. He doesn't get sped up at either third or first base. He has the ability to block a ball when he needs to and pick a ball when he needs to."
Brett Bozeman played some first base during the fall.
"Brett is a guy who puts the barrel where he wants to on the offensive end. He does a good job of having great at-bats. There are times when he gets beat in the count and times where he hits early in the count. But as far as swings and handling the pitch down in the zone, Brett does a great job. Defensively, at first base, balls in the dirt don't give him a problem. Being a catcher helps him with that. As far as his range, we are going to have to access that in the future."
What are your thoughts about true freshman Wes Rea as a first baseman?
"Wes has a great feel for playing first base. Defensively, he has the ability to pick balls out of the dirt and stay down on ground balls. He has done a nice job defensively. Offensively, he continues to improve his swing each day. His ability to hit breaking balls has improved a great deal since being on campus."