You redshirted last season, then played summer ball. What was your goals while playing summer ball?
"Going into my redshirt spring I had talked to Coach Cohen and knew the areas that I needed to improve. I worked hard, put on some weight, worked hard defensively. I came in last fall at about 193, now I'm 201.
"During the summer, I wanted to get better defensively in the outfield, get better offensively and get used to seeing higher quality pitching day-in, day-out. I got a lot better approach-wise, got better in late counts, which is big for me. I hit well when I was ahead in the count but when I was behind in the count I struggled a little bit. I got a lot better toward the end of the summer with that. Seeing good pitching everyday helped me a lot. Now, I'm in a place this fall where I am better able to contribute than I was able to at this time last fall."
How do you improve your behind-in-the-count hitting?
"I have always been an aggressive hitter, fastball, early type hitter. But when pitchers are better you see more velocity. They are able to spot up a lot earlier in the count. You don't usually get the pitch that you want to hit early in the count. You want to be learn to be patient and wait for a pitch later in the count that you can hit instead of swinging at a first-pitch fastball. You might go up there and the guy will paint a first-pitch fastball on the outside corner. And that is not the type pitch that I want to hit. I want to learn to take that pitch and hit more off-speed pitches that are up in the zone. I want to wait for a pitch that allows me to drive it to the gap, instead of trying to hit a pitcher's pitch early in the count."
You must have been able to do that because you hit well early in the summer.
"The first few games I hit well, then I cooled down after a week or two. Then, the last month, month and a half of the season I kind of figured some things out and I really excelled. I continued to progress and get better."
You hit seven home runs during the summer. Do you think your home run power is starting to show in college?
"I was a power hitter in high school and during the summer but I got here and the park is a lot bigger than most high school fields. But the big thing was the pitching. That was the thing that I had to get used to. We didn't see the arms day to day that you see in college. That was a big adjustment for me. I think the fall last year helped me. Then, the spring scrimmages help. Then summer rolled around and I was getting adjusted to it."
During the summer, what caliber of pitching did you see?
"We saw a lot of SEC pitching. We saw a kid from Georgia, Auburn, a couple of kids from Vandy, Florida. Outside of the SEC, we saw kids from Stanford, Texas Tech, a lefty from Maryland who was 94-97. He got the award for best pro prospect in the league. Michigan State had one of their big arms there. He was really good. We saw some more Florida kids and some northeast kids who were really good."
Against that competition you did well. That must have built your confidence up a lot?
"Absolutely. You don't want to get too confident or two humble, you want to stay somewhere in the middle. But after having a fall like I did last fall where I wasn't where I wanted to be, that hurts your confidence a little bit. But I worked really hard my redshirt spring and knew I was ready to go out in the summer. And having success against good pitching during the summer boosted my confidence. It gets you more excited to start fall ball and see where you stack up."
You must be excited about this fall. You redshirted last season and know you will play next spring.
"I am super excited about the fall. We have a great group of guys, a lot of talent. I can't wait to see what we can do as a team."
You are a power hitter. The ball travels a little farther with the new low-seam ball. How do you adjust your swing to the new ball so that you can use your power but you can also hit for average?
"I have been working on one thing since last fall. Coach Cohen has talked to me about it a lot. I have to find a happy median between taking my best swing and also get an aggressive swing that allows me to drive the ball. I don't want to swing too hard, trying to hit home runs. I'm big enough and have enough bat speed so that if I take my best swing the ball will carry far enough to go out. So, I have been working on trying to find the happy median. Hitting every day in the summer helped me out with that."