Auburn, Ala.—With plenty of holes to fill heading into the 2012 season, Auburn Coach John Pawlowski and his staff signed a deep and talented recruiting class to help fill in the gaps from a large senior class and several potential junior losses as well.
On Monday much of that class got started at Auburn with the first day of the second session of summer school on the Plains. Pitcher Daniel Koger from Huntsville High is one of 11 players already on campus taking classes and is one of the most decorated players in the group.
Joining Koger on campus already for classes is Clay Holmes (6-4, 225, RHP, Slocumb), Rocky McCord (6-2, 175, RHP, Spanish Fort), Justin Camp (6-2, 220, Austin-Decatur), Colton Davis (6-3, 185, Lake Wales FL), Jarred Smith (5-10, 185, INF, RHP, Lake Wales, FL), J.D. Crowe (Birmingham, AL), Chase Williamson (6-2, 190, RHP, INF, Mobile), Trey Cochran-Gill (5-10, 175, RHP, OF, Tallassee), Cameron Blinka (6-0, 200, RHP, Rosenburg, TX), and Craig Shirley (6-4, 225, IF, RHP, Dothan).
Named Alabama’s Mr. Baseball for 2011, Koger was 11-3 on the mound with a 1.61 ERA in 87 innings on the way to a state championship. Leading the state with 138 strikeouts, including 51 in five postseason wins, the 6-6 Koger was a dominant force on the mound in what he calls a special year.
“It was really a great honor to get all those awards,” Koger tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. “The state championship to cap off my senior year was a great feeling. It was great for the seniors, great for the coaches, it was great for all of us.”
A reliever in his freshman season before moving into the starting rotation as a sophomore, Koger finished his career with a record of 27-10 and struck out 318 batters in 236 innings pitched. He said as a senior he developed more as a pitcher and it showed on the mound.
“I went to the weight room a lot in the offseason,” Koger said. “I long-tossed to get my arm stronger. I jumped up about five MPH (to around 92), and my control was a lot better for all my pitches.”
In addition to his career at Huntsville High Koger has also had the opportunity to face some of the top competition in the country as a member of the East Cobb Astros travel team. Winning four national championships he said that has prepared him well for the top levels in the game.
“It’s unbelievable over there,” Koger said. “They run it like a professional organization. It’s a great organization. You work and get better there. Last year really helped me a lot to become the pitcher I am now.”
Growing up in and around Auburn, Koger chose the Tigers over Georgia Tech, Alabama, Clemson, Mississippi State and several other top college baseball programs. He said for him everything just felt right about Pawlowski, his staff, and the program as a whole.
“Even though I grew up going down there it really didn’t play into my decision,” Koger said. “When I got down here I knew it was the place for me and I went with it.”
Now preparing for his first fall and season in an Auburn uniform Koger and his fellow newcomers will have the opportunity to see playing time right away with so much turnover from last year’s team. He said everyone is just looking to work hard because they believe this group has a chance to win a lot of games in the coming years.
“There are a lot of good pitchers that have come in,” Koger said. “It’s going to be competitive, but that’s what I like. You have to go out there and prove yourself.
“I think we’ve got a lot of talent coming in,” he added. “For the next few years we’ve got a lot of talent already committed. I think it’s going to be a good year starting off for us and we’ll get continually better.”
Of the signees currently on campus only Holmes is still a threat to sign a pro contract. He was drafted with the first pick of the ninth round by Pittsburgh. He has until the first day of fall classes to sign with the Pirates.
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