Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring football notes

Just a few local notes as spring football is in full swing at South Carolina, Clemson and CCU:

* Cliff Matthews getting some time at tight end

The former WPDE Zoneman Finalist has been one of Steve Spurrier's favorites and the Ball Coach says he wants the best 11 men on the field. Matthews will still be one of the keys to the Gamecocks defense , but it looks like we may see him in goal line situations. What Spurrier should realize is that Cliff has got a great pair of hands and would be more than capable of making some catches on play action in the end zone. I've got plenty of archive video of big Cliff making some great grabs during his days at Cheraw

* Spencer Benton breaks his collarbone

The Myrtle Beach Seahawk spent spring break snowboarding and broke his collarbone, but will still kick in spring practice for Clemson. The redshirt freshman is the front runner to take over placekicking duties for Dabo Swinney. Spencer is not your typical kicker - he's an excellent wakeboarder. I'm just hoping MTV's Nitro Circus doesn't invite him to try some stunts - Benton needs to stay in one piece over the next four years.

* CCU Pro Day on Friday, scrimmage on Saturday

There won't be the fanfare of last year when Jerome Simpson and Mike Tolbert worked out in front of NFL scouts, but CCU will hold a pro day this Friday with such prospects as Mario Norman, Britt Leggett and Ronnie Mason trying to make an impression.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gamecocks: Bubble likely burst

I'm not a licensed bracketologist, but I know one. One of my good friends works closely with Joe Lunardi and the maddening process of selecting the field of 65. Here's a look at South Carolina's resume as it sits on the fence:

Gamecocks Resume

21 wins, 10 in the SEC (SEC East co-champs)
RPI: 59 (as of Saturday)
key wins: Auburn, at Baylor, Florida
key losses: Mississippi State (twice), at Florida, Tennessee (twice)
wins vs. RPI top 50 = zero

When you break down the Gamecocks, you have to look at it this way. USC is competing for an at-large bid. There's no need to compare the RPI's of teams that have won automatic bids - just look at the competition for the at-large spots.
The first thing you have to start with is RPI (Ratings Index Percentage). Normally, an RPI in the 30's or 40's can make you feel strong about getting a bid. Teams have gotten into the Dance with an RPI in the 50's, but it's rare.
The next thing you look at is the SEC, which is definitely down this year. With Mississippi State in the SEC title game against Tennessee, you can surmise that LSU and the Vols are locked into the field. The Bulldogs can lock up a 3rd SEC bid or make a case for an at large by making the run to the SEC finals.
So the bottom line is this: if South Carolina gets an at-large bid, that means that four SEC teams will get invited to the tournament. Mississippi State getting two wins over the Gamecocks puts them ahead of USC in the pecking order. Most years, double digit wins in the SEC would lock you into the field, but this year, that's not the case.
The fact that the Gamecocks are 0-4 against RPI top 50 and they have lost three of their last four are two more strikes when there name comes up behind closed doors.
That's why I think, USC is heading to the NIT. Ultimately, they were one win short of making it. If they had beaten Tennessee at home or topped Mississippi State in Atlanta, it would have been a done deal. Clemson, who's RPI is in the 20's - should be a 5 or 6 seed come Sunday.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Mailbag

Now that the Hoop Zone banquet is behind us, I am finally getting the chance to answer some well written and well thought out emails. I'd like to thank everyone below for writing in - it's a delight to answer folks who took the time to put together some great questions and concerns. So here we go!

Garrett Bateman writes:

To Whom it may Concern:
I am writing you this evening concerning the content and quality of your local sportscast. Quite frankly, I am sorry to say that I find it to be rather poor in content. The quality and knowledge is most definitely there and your knowledge and passion are present. However,many other things are sadly lacking. Let me explain what I mean.
I recently moved to N. Myrtle Beach from Phoenix, AZ. Phoenix has all 4 major sports represented in town. In addition, we had Arizona State,NASCAR,boxing, high school sports, golf, etc. They even had time to talk about NAU and that junior college in Tucson. My point is, they talked about local sports and still had time for national sports. That is something that is sadly lacking in your broadcast. You seem to solely focus on the Carolinas or past Carolina athletes now in the pros. Your national coverage is nil. While I do realize that there are not many Sun Devil, D-Back, or Suns fans in town, there are other teams out there. I can promise you that there are plenty of Cowboys,Colts,Rockies,Ohio State,Rockies,Pacers,Rays,etc, fans out there. Please devote sometime to national coverage. It is the only thing lacking in what is otherwise a fine news and sports program. Thank you for your attention.

First of all, welcome to the Grand Strand. You are right on the mark in your analysis. There used to be a time when we were able to show some national sports to go along with our extensive coverage, but those days are gone. Our philosophy has to be extensive local sports coverage. On weekends, we get afforded a little more extra time to show some national stories, but our goal is to have as much local coverage as possible. Quite frankly, there are so many places you can go to get the national sports starting first and foremost with ESPN that it doesn't make sense for us to try and cover the national scene. I can remember growing up that the local sportscast was the only way I could see Larry Bird or Tom Seaver, but things have changed. It is important for us to give viewers things that can not be seen on ESPN which is why what your wrote above is exactly what we are doing. You will still see national sports here and there from us, but honestly, we are being lazy if we show too many national sports stories. It's our job to get out in the communities and cover them through high school, college and our local products playing in the pros.

Howard Gump writes:

Why don't you cover High School baseball ?????

Karen has a similar question:

You give a "Mr. End Zone" award for high school football, a "Mr. and Miss Hoop Zone" for basketball, so what do you give for the high school baseball players? Why is it that friday nights during the fall and winter have full coverage for high school football and basketball, but there is very minimal coverage for baseball? We never see scores for the area high schools - they get replaced by the Pelicans or the Chanticleers. Please make an effort to give them coverage they deserve, after all, they work just as hard as the football and basketball players. Why don't you give the "Mr. Diamond Zone" award for the best area baseball player? Just a suggestion from a devoted baseball fan and a devoted WPDE viewer.

Howard and Karen:

Year in and year out, we get a small yet powerful niche of local sports fans who want more extensive high school baseball coverage. We are trying to make some headway in improving our spring sports coverage. It's true that the Pelicans and CCU baseball are in direct competition and that has an impact on what we can do. I am making an attempt of expanding our coverage on We will attempt to have schedules and results posted on each of our 34 team pages on The goal here is to get folks to email/call us with scores on a regular basis and build up some interest on the web. We will still go out and get highlights of regular season games. We have always geared up for post-season coverage and will continue to do so.

Karen, I would like to have a long term goal of taking the Zoneman/Mr and Miss Hoop Zone contact and expand it to every varsity sports. Mr. Soccer Zone, Miss Soccer Zone - Mr. Baseball Zone, Softball, etc. We need to get to a point where every single varsity coach can establish regular communication with us and we can organize it in such a way that we can ballot the top players in our area in every single sport. It's going to take baby steps and hopefully the addition of our high school baseball and softball schedules to our website is the first step. I would like to have a Mr and Miss Diamond Zone one day. If we can get 68 coaches to get on board, we will make that our next step.

A Hilliard writes:

Dear WPDE Sports Team:

I watch your sportscasts at least once a day. I pay special attention to any mention of Coastal Carolina athletics and it appears to me that your station is always highlighting every former Coastal athlete that has gone pro with the exception of Quinton Teal from Marlboro County. I am cognizant of the fact that Quinton isn't a high profile athlete, but if you check his stats or talk with the Panthers' personnel they think extremely highly of him. Of course being in the limelight is not Quinton's "thing". All he is concerned with is getting his job done and doing it well. Furthermore, and correct me if I'm wrong, but Quniton is the only Coastal player from your viewing area that has made it to the "big time". Another concern I have is WPDE's lack of coverage of Robert Ayers and his performance at the NFL's combine in Indianapolis. According to most NFL analysts, Robert is now rated as the number one defensive player in this year's draft. One expert ranked him as the best overall athlete in this year's draft. Robert chose WPDE to announce his college decision. I would like to think you would at least give him some recognition for what he has accomplished.
This neglect of athletes from Marlboro County is making me wonder if WPDE has prejudice against Marlboro County athletes in general. Hopefully, I am completely misguided in my opinions and possibly missed your reports on these athletes. I hope so, but if I'm right, please correct this omission. These are two outstanding young men who would deserve recognition even if they had not excelled in sports. And yes, you have probably ascertained that I am from Marlboro County and know both of these men well. Just ask Tonya Brown who her favorite teacher is. Thank you for your time.

Ms. Hilliard:

First off, if you are dropping Tonya Brown's name - that's good enough for me! I can't tell you what an invalauble asset Tonya is to our station. More important than that, she's an even better person! We're so lucky to have her at WPDE. I'm glad you dropped me a line as I can give you a definitive answer on both Mr. Teal and Mr. Ayers. First off with Robert - we have done two stories on him in recent months. The first one was when he recorded a QB sack in the end zone of the Senior Bowl. The second story was when he was at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. We were fortunate enough to get a satellite feed of his workout in front of NFL scouts and GM's and was able to show it the following day. We also previewed the combine and talked about the very thing you mentioned in the text above - it's a good chance that Robert will be a first round draft pick. We have already done an interview with Dean Boyd that we will run closer to the draft to talk about Robert's amazing progress. That makes a total of three stories we have already done with at least one more coming before the draft.
Now on to Quinton Teal. Your letter above is spot on when it comes to the former CCU All-American. Quinton does not like the limelight at all. He cringes when we ask him to do an interview and it has become a running joke with us over the years. I invited Quinton to be a guest speaker at our TD Club during the Panthers bye week and he backed out at the last minute. I invited him to come to our fundraiser dinner along with Tyler Thigpen and Mike Tolbert, but he said he was out of town.
I promise you, we'll keep trying! I may drop your name the next time he tries to get out of an interview with us. Quinton is a great kid and we're very proud of what he has accomplished.

Thanks again to everyone who has written in! Enjoy the March Madness