The Tigers began practice Friday as they prepare for another season they hope ends with a trip to Omaha. TheClemsonInsider.com caught up with coach Bradley LeCroy to preview the 2012 season.
With the departures of Jeff Schaus, Will Lamb and Chris Epps Clemson will need to replace the entire outfield this season.
“I think coming out of the fall the top tier guys would be Dominic Attanasio likely in left field. Thomas Brittle in center along with Tyler Slaton a freshman. Then Brad Felder in right along with Garrett Boulware a freshman from TL Hanna. Boulware swung the bat so good in the fall that we need to find a way to get his bat in the lineup,” said LeCroy.
With transfers Brittle and Felder along with freshmen Slaton and Boulware battling for significant playing time fans will see a lot of new faces, but coach LeCroy is confident the young players will seize the opportunities available and competition will produce a quality outfield.
“They are going to get a lot of quality time. They are good players and have really improved a lot. I think it is going to be a good situation. They couldn’t have walked into a better situation with us losing the entire outfield. It is a good thing. You get fresh blood, guys are eager and they are competing all the time. They know nothing is set in stone. If we started today and write up a lineup in three weeks it might be a totally different outfield,” said LeCroy.
One of the key factors that will determine which outfielders are in the lineup is how they do at the plate.
“I think it will. I think it is going to be important, except for in center field. I think Thomas Brittle probably has the edge right now because he can really, really run and he is a plus defender. With our ballpark being so big you have to have someone in center field that can really play defense. The other positions are really going to depend on who is hitting,” said LeCroy.
With only one right handed batter matchups won’t play a significant role in who plays.
“One thing is Boulware is really the only outfielder we have that is right handed. We probably won’t be able to do as many matchups as we would like,” said LeCroy.
The infield will also look different to fans in Doug Kingsmore, but the faces will be familiar.
“Richie Shaffer will move over to third. Jason Stolz will move over to short which is his natural position. Jon McGibbon will play first. Phil Pohl will play some at first and when he does McGibbon will go to right. It is great for us to have McGibbon be so versatile. Steve Wilkerson will play second. Stevie was a big time recruit coming out of high school and he turned down a lot of money from the Red Sox to come to Clemson. He struggled a little bit as a freshman like most of they do, but he got stronger in the weight room over the last year and has matured and he has made a big time jump. He is going to be an impact player for us this year,” said LeCroy.