Columbus State baseball coach Greg Appleton watched Mike McClellan struggle in the fall of 2013 after he transferred from Georgia Southern.
Appleton was counting on the big right-handed hitting first baseman to be one of the Cougars' main power sources when the 2014 season started.
"We kind of went 'oh, no,' " Appleton said. "But then when spring rolled, he came on and had a good year."
Describing it as a good year might have been shortchanging McClellan some.
He hit .373 in 169 at bats with a team-leading 13 home runs and 43 RBIs.
The Union Grove High (McDonough, Ga.) product had an even better junior season, hitting 16 homers and driving in 63 runs while hitting .371. The home-run and RBI totals were third most in the Peach Belt Conference in each category.
For those efforts, he was named an All-American by the Collegiate Baseball Writers of America. The same group named him a preseason All-America last week.
"Last year was sort of the same thing although he didn't struggle as much in the fall," Appleton said. "Plus we weren't worried about it because we knew what he could do.
"He had a really good, at times, dominating season."
McClellan and the Cougars start the 2016 season today with a game at Erskine College. After a doubleheader at Erskine on Saturday, the Cougars play their home opener on Feb. 10 against Albany State.
McClellan was moved to first base by Appleton when he arrived at CSU. McClellan had been a catcher throughout high school and in his one season at Georgia Southern, where he batted .188 in 10 games.
"He loves to work, he loves to play baseball," Appleton said. "He is great guy, all the guys love him. He can take it and he can dish it out. He doesn't take himself too seriously."
With two big power seasons behind him, Appleton expects McClellan will be drafted this summer by a major league team.
"I told him this, "for you to become a total complete player, you have to become solid defensively and a little better runner,' " Appleton said. "Probably the reason he didn't get drafted last year was he was a below average runner and an average fielder.
"He was a catcher growing up. but I have seen him get better at first base. He is never going to be a great runner, but he just needs to not be a problem runner. I told him, you just can't clog it up,' and he has worked on that."