Dave Serrano has relayed the same message in a variety of ways.

Whether it's through talks of newfound talent, mentions of SEC relevance, or visions of postseason trips to college baseball's most-heralded Nebraskan city, the third-year UT baseball coach has kept one common theme intact.

This season will be different.

"This is an exciting time for our program starting year three," Serrano said at Monday's press luncheon, "more importantly, starting the 2014 season, which I have high hopes for more than I ever have in my three years here.

"I definitely believe that the talent level is where it needs to be."

Despite three consecutive losing seasons and no SEC tournament berths since 2007, Serrano has consistently labeled his 2014 squad as the remodeled product he envisioned upon arriving in Knoxville.

That revamped version of UT baseball will make its season debut on Saturday at 3 p.m. when the Vols welcome Purdue to Lindsey Nelson Stadium for a three-game series. The opening weekend will conclude on Sunday with a doubleheader.

"We look the part now," Serrano said. "You go out and see us play and see our guys in uniform. We are a good-looking, athletic, physical group. There is a method behind that, to be in the SEC you have to be physical. I think we fit that mold now."

For UT – as would be the case for any team trying to reach the postseason for the first time in seven seasons – that road begins with depth inside the pitching staff, and Serrano believes the Vols have just that in 2014.

"It is going to start on the mound," Serrano said. "That is what happens when you get two good recruiting classes. You get them past major league baseball, and you are able to bring them into your program."

Two important pitching components of Serrano's recruiting success will come to fruition this weekend as sophomore Andrew Lee and freshman Hunter Martin will start each of UT's first two games, respectively.

Lee is a Morristown High School product who didn't pitch last season because of Tommy John surgery. Martin attended Blackman High School in Murfreesboro, and Perfect Game tabbed him as the sixth-best prep player in the state last year.

The program's most heralded addition, however, is that of Serrano's own son, Kyle, who opted to don the orange and white despite being drafted by the Colorado Rockies.

The former Farragut Admiral was named the conference's top preseason freshman by Perfect Game earlier this year and is scheduled to start the second game of Sunday's doubleheader.

"He has tremendous stuff and huge upside," Dave Serrrano said in reference to Kyle. "He can go anywhere from 91 to 95, has a good curveball and has really developed a great change-up."

With all three scheduled starters set to make their collegiate mound debuts this weekend, the Vols' third-year head man admitted he anticipates rookie mistakes but is assured all will duplicate their results from a productive offseason.

"There is going to be some anxiety on that part," Dave Serrano said, "but I'm confident because the fact that they have faced a good lineup each and every day in our inner-squad game, and for the most part, they've had good outings against them."

While Vol hurlers may have thrived against their offensive counterparts this fall, Dave Serrano said he doesn't expect the same for opposing pitchers this season.

"I think our offense is going to be a very strong weapon throughout the year," he said. "We have a lot of left-handed hitters, a lot of guys who can run the bases and guys who can hit the ball over the fence.

"I am just very proud at how these guys have developed."

The majority of last season's offensive production returns as upperclassmen Scott Price and Will Maddox, along with sophomore thumpers Vincent Jackson, A.J. Simcox and Christin Stewart, will look to carry the load in 2014.

"We have almost our whole offensive lineup back," Maddox said on Jan. 26., "and I think we have one of the better — if not the best — offensive lineup in the SEC this year."

However, navigating through the conference's rosters will again be a daunting task. The SEC boasts a bevy of nationally-ranked teams, including five in Perfect Game's 2014 Preseason Top 25 poll.

"The SEC is always gonna be strong," Maddox said. "There are different teams each year that are very good."

But while the stiff competition inside the conference is to be expected, it's the reduced discrepancies in talent level that has Dave Serrano anxious to go.

"I can no longer look across the field from our dugout and see a bunch of boys playing a bunch of men in the SEC," he said.

"Our boys have grown into men in a very short order."