Every season brings on new challenges for a coach, but this baseball season brings head coach Dave Serrano a challenge he's never encountered in his eight years as a head coach.
"I have never had this many new players at one time come onto a team that I have been a part of," Serrano said.
Out of the 32 players on Tennessee's 2013 roster, 21 of them are new with 18 true freshmen. But that fact doesn't worry Serrano, in his second year head coach at Tennessee; rather, it excites him.
"I am as excited about this group that I have ever been in all of my years of coaching, especially as a head coach," Serrano said. "There is such a big unknown out there about this team right now, even from our coaching staff and from within our team, but there is a sense of excitement and security and confidence within this team because of what they have established within themselves."
With so much youth the Volunteer team will look for leadership from the 11 returning players.
"They have brought them in and helped show them the reigns of what direction we want this program to go," Serrano said. "I can't be any prouder of those 11 guys because they have taken a group of new players and they have helped mentor them along with the coaching staff."
Freshmen agree that the returning players are helping make the transition from high school to SEC baseball as smooth as possible.
"Zach Godley, Zach Luther and Will Maddox have all been really key leaders," freshman A.J. Simcox said. "They do a great job of leading. If we have any questions they'll help us out. They've done a great job welcoming us here and meshing the young guys, helping us grow.
"With all the hard work we've put in, we're excited to see it pay off," Simcox said.
Even with this excitement Serrano realizes that he is in the midst of rebuilding the Tennessee program.
"I knew there would be tough times before us just because of where this program was at," Serrano said. "I'm not going to deny there may be some tough times this year still, but I'm starting to see really bright lights at the end of the tunnel."
Serrano believes this 2013 class is that beacon toward sunnier days for his program.
"I actually went up to Zach Godley in the outfield when we were taking (batting practice) and said 'I kind of feel bad for you Zach' – Zach is one of two seniors on our team – and I said 'because I think we are going to do something that we're all going to be excited about this year, but I feel bad because this is your last year and you're not going to be part of this place when these guys really take off,'" the head coach said.
Time will tell how the recruiting class pans out, but the coaching staff is pleased with the group they were able to bring onto campus.
"I will say this, the proof will be in the pudding down the line ... but we haven't missed, if at all, on many players," Serrano said.