Monday, June 30, 2014

In The Dog Pen: Exclusive Interview with the Voice of the Terriers, Mark Hauser

Longtime Voice of the Terriers Mark Hauser was gracious enough to field a set of questions I had about our upcoming seasons, both football and men's basketball. To begin, however, I asked him, "What factor about Wofford College has kept you working with the Terriers for as long as you have?"

Hauser said that his family has settled nicely into the Upstate, and that there has always been enough local radio and marketing opportunities to supplement calling Terrier games. He recounted about his position at Wofford:
"This will be my 23rd season coming up. I'd be lying if I said I haven't applied for a few major D-1 jobs over the years when they have come open, but it's been rare.
There is also something very special about the Wofford job. Think about this: in 23 years with the program, I've worked with one head football coach, one offensive coordinator, and two head basketball coaches (and the first guy [Richard Johnson] was kicked upstairs to Athletic Director). I'd venture to say I'm the only D-1 play-by-play guy in the country who has enjoyed that kind of continuity. Add in the fact that the Mikes (Ayers and Young) are first-class people who truly care about more than just wins and losses, and that makes calling Terrier games a pretty nice gig.
And I haven't even mentioned my broadcast partner of over a decade and a half. Thom Henson is THE BEST. Our listeners have no idea how much fun we have. Thom's not only a real pro, but he's a great family man."
Here are his answers to four football-realted questions:

What did you see as our biggest setback/hindrance last year, and how should we improve it?

Hauser: Wofford’s offense simply wasn’t the same as it had been the previous few years. I know that’s not a news flash. In many ways things should have fallen off after losing the best running back in school history, Eric Breitenstein. Couple that with the fact that Donovan Johnson dealt with a series of nagging injuries and add in an unstable situation at QB, and the Terriers were not nearly as potent offensively as compared to 2008-2013 (making the playoffs 5 of 6 seasons). Concerning QB play, Wofford’s offense has always been at its best when the triple option is run by a quarterback that is recognized by the opposing defense as a true threat to run, no matter how good the fullback is. In his senior season in 2011, Mitch Allen ran for 947 yards. In 2012, a playoff season, Wofford quarterbacks combined for 636 rushing yards.  Last season, that number dropped to 474. In terms of fixing things, it won’t be easy since the Terriers will be replacing four starters on the offensive line - but the key will be steady and regular play by whomever plays quarterback, along with better blocking by the Terrier halfbacks and wide receivers. More QB:  At the end of last season Coach Ayers said the Terriers were going to name one QB as the starter when the season begins. Coming out of spring practice, I don’t think that decision has been fully made yet. We’ll have to wait until August.

Our home schedule has been criticized, especially due to our non-Division I opponents. What is your opinion on scheduling lower-division teams?

Hauser: I’ll be the first to admit that the 2014 football schedule is not particularly appetizing. BUT it was not for lack of trying.  I know Mark Line and others in the Athletic Department made a concerted, forceful effort to try to find a D-1 foe after Jacksonville University, a D-I program, bought out their game with the Terriers. In fact, it’s my understanding that several D-I athletic directors had agreed to play Wofford in 2014 – however, those team’s coaches put the kibosh on things since they had no interest in playing against an option offense. I believe just as the Terriers play up once a year (i.e. going to Georgia Tech in August), there’s not a problem with playing a lower division team once per season. This year, Wofford will play two due to circumstances nearly out of their control. Heck, if UVA-Wise wasn’t landed late there was a real possibility that the Terriers would have played only ten total games with just four at Gibbs. That would be even worse. 2015 will be much better with two FBS teams on the schedule (at Clemson and Idaho) and four conference home games with ETSU joining the SoCon.

Who do you see as the Terriers' toughest opponent this season?

Hauser: Other than the obvious answer being Georgia Tech, which beat Elon last year 70-0, I would say it’s Furman or Chattanooga. I’m hedging because both have outstanding quarterbacks. Jacob Huesman will be a junior at UTC and has developed very nicely. Chattanooga also has established a solid running attack.  And the Mocs defense is pretty nasty. The Paladins have junior Reese Hannon at quarterback. He’s very, very good. Bruce Fowler is really starting to put things together in Greenville. I know Terrier fans don’t want to hear that, but it’s happening. Furman has finally put some money into their facilities and it’s already making a difference in recruiting. Samford lost their sixth-year senior QB Andy Summerlin, who was a real thorn in Wofford’s side. Summerlin was an FBS transfer from Memphis. The Bulldogs have a new QB and he’s also an FBS transfer, so they could be back in the running. The tough news for Wofford is that they play all three defending SoCon tri-champions on the road this season.

Who has to step up the most this year for the Terriers to again make it to the top of the SoCon? 

Hauser: The O-Line is going to have to play well. The good news is that in terms of degree of difficulty the schedule truly ramps up in the second half of the season (no offense to The Citadel and WCU), so those four new starters will have a little grace period, though not much. Also, I’ll be interested to see how Wofford’s LB corps fares without Alvin Scioneaux and Mike McCrimmon. I look for Kevin Thomas to have a big year at ILB, but the Terriers are going to need solid play and leadership from Travis Thomas at OLB.

In addition to the inquiries directed toward the football program, I included a few about our defending-SoCon champion basketball squad:

It seems that the attention on the basketball program is at an all-time high. With this is mind, do you think that this will have an effect on how the team plays this season?

Hauser: No. This group is very loose. Bordering on goofy, in a good way. Coach Young rides them when needed.

Assistant coach Darris Nichols departed to Louisiana Tech last week. With the continued success of the program, do you think that this will happen with other Terrier coaches, or, even worse, Mike Young? And, if so, how would we cope with it?

Hauser: Losing assistant coaches is a by-product of success. Wofford lost Paul Harrison, an outstanding assistant, two years ago. If the Terriers keep winning, then someone may want to talk to Associate Head Coach Dustin Kerns in the near future as I believe he is a rising star. The good news is that both Tim Johnson and Kevin Giltner should be around for awhile and both are exactly what Coach Young looks for in an assistant. Plus, they played for Mike, which is a bonus. As for Coach Young leaving Wofford, I can’t really say other than if he were to go, a bigger school would be getting a great coach and an even better person. I’ll say this: a new basketball facility/arena would be a heck of an incentive for both recruits and coaches. As for coping with Mike leaving the school – leave that to his boss, Richard Johnson, who knows a thing or two about winning basketball.

Mark Hauser and Wofford alum Thom Henson call Terrier Football and Men’s Basketball on radio on the Wofford/IMG Sports Network (WOLI in Spartanburg at 105.7-FM and 910-AM). Games will also be streamed online this season at Fans can also listen on their handhelds by downloading the TuneIn Radio app. Wofford radio audio will also be streamed as part of TerrierVision and SoCon All-Access video webcasts for all home football and men’s basketball games this season.

Additionally, you can follow Mark Hauser on Twitter @TerrierVoice.

I'd like to personally thank Mark for his time and for answering these questions. If reading this interview doesn't get you fired up for this season, I don't know what will. (Except, of course, our Giving It Another Look series.)

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