Aug 29, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Alex Bazzie earned his bachelor’s degree from Marshall in business marketing in May.
He wants to take it to another level, however – on and off the football field.
The Thundering Herd starter at the rush defensive end spot – the MU coaches call it the “Fox” these days – wants to make his final college football season a special one. At the same time, the redshirt senior from Silver Spring, Md., is in graduate school to help get where he wants to go.
So, as the Herd opens its 2013 season Saturday night at Edwards Stadium against Miami of Ohio, Bazzie is intent on making more than one impact … and that’s not just a reference on his grasp that Marshall needs more quarterback pressure and sacks than in 2012.
“I’m a graduate student in adult training and education,” Bazzie said earlier this week. “The NFL was always my goal from when I was a little child, but I’m a man who likes to help out a lot.
“I want to take my training experience from my classes now and my business degree and get something going when I’m done with school where I can start a Pop Warner League. I want to be able to help kids grow up not only to be great football players but great people.”
On the field, the 6-foor-1, 228-pound Bazzie knows the lofty predictions for his final Herd team. He said it’s up to him and his teammates to make a dream come true.
“It’s hard to believe this is the start of my last year,” Bazzie said. “I really don’t want to think about it, but I do want to make it a great one. There are a lot of us seniors (19) this season and we all want to start something new around here.
“We all want to start something where we satisfy ourselves leaving here, and where we make it comfortable for the lower classes to enjoy coming into the next year … and look for them having the chance to continue what we’ve built.”
Bazzie is part of a four-man Herd defensive front that is led by seniors and fourth-year juniors. Ditto the Marshall offensive line, which Coach Doc Holliday
considers “a strength now for the first time (in his four seasons guiding the program).”
“Camp has been tough,” Bazzie said of the three weeks leading toward opening-game week. “We have so many athletes, so many guys now with great talent, and it’s sad we can only put 11 guys out there on the field.
“With the front, we took so much pride this camp understanding that the team goes as we go. Both the offensive and defensive lines kind of sat down and looked at one another and said, ‘As we go, this team goes.’ We know that.”
The Herd could regularly play as many as nine or 10 defensive linemen. And with the secondary playing a mostly man coverage in new coordinator Chuck Heater’s aggressive scheme, Bazzie knows it’s imperative that Marshall get more than the 19 sacks it posted in 12 games a year ago – post-Vinny Curry.
“If we can get some pressure and cause havoc as D-line, our secondary will get to cover, our linebackers will get to make tackles, but it’s on us up front,” Bazzie said. “We have the depth (to roll players in and out). But with backup guys, they don’t look at it as being a second stringer or backup guys, they see it as them being starters once they’re in the game.
“Once you’re playing Miami of Ohio, you’re not coming in like a second-string guy, you’re coming in to do the same thing the first string is doing. No matter how the public wants to look at it, first string, second string, you’re going against our opponent’s first offense.
“So, when those guys go in there, they understand they’re not going to be held to a second-string level. It’s like, ‘I’m going to be held as a starter in the eyes of the rest of the team because they’re leaving it up to me to block that guy or make a great play to turn things around.’
“With a lot of our guys, the understanding is that at any given time they could be in the game and it might be fourth-and-1, and they can’t play like a second-teamer or third teamer. They have to play as a first-teamer because they’re on the field. With them understanding that, it brings a lot of maturity to this team.”
Bazzie had 80 tackles as a junior last season, ranking fifth on the team. But a big difference – due to the aforementioned depth – is that where Bazzie and fellow senior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor probably played about 70-75 snaps per game a year ago, they may now be needed for only 50-55.
That can help the Herd, as does Holliday’s decision to name game captains rather than captains for the entire season. Bazzie grasps the concept and said it will keep players chasing another goal – as he chases down quarterbacks.
“Coach Holliday loves competition; he loves competition, but it’s not just about competition,” Bazzie said of the weekly captaincy plan. “It’s about who represented the team well that week. Who set the tone for that game week?
“Whoever did it the best, let them go out and represent us as captains during the coin toss. And it’s motivation for the rest of the guys to know that it’s not this one person we look up to. We look up to everybody and it’s going to be up to you whether or not you’re in the captains’ category for the week.
“It brings motivation out for people to go out and practice hard, and for people to really show their leadership skills, because now it’s not just for upperclassmen to say something to be a leader. It can be a freshman, a sophomore.
“If you’re showing maturity, if you’re showing you can handle the adversity in everything that’s out there, then you can go out on the coin toss.
“We have a lot of leaders on this team.”
Bazzie -- a “fox” who wants to get in opponents’ hen houses – is one of them to be sure.”