By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It’s been a long road for Alex Bazzie to this, his senior season. There was a lot of special teams action along the way, leading to a steady progression to more playing time on defense.
In a lot of ways, last season was a breakout for the Silver Spring, Md., native. He started every game for Marshall, including an 11-tackle performance at West Virginia in the season opener.
Bazzie is the third-leading tackler back from 2012, when he registered 80 tackles, including nine for loss and a pair of sacks.
Now he is ready to close his career with a memorable senior year, not just for himself but for all his teammates on defense.
“I felt like I got my feet wet a little bit,” the 6-foot-1, 228-pound defensive tackle said. “Got (a feel) for the college game atmosphere and just the flow of it. I played special teams and that really helped me a lot with the transition from special teams to actually getting on the field on defense, and I gradually got into it.
“I’m just hoping that I can elevate my game. I can learn a lot from what my wrongs were, and I can also learn from my goods. Just to elevate from that and take my game to the next level this year, I’m very excited about that.”
The defense as a whole will have to raise its game more than just a level after ranking as one of the worst in the nation last year. Bazzie and his teammates on that side of the ball have had to hear about how bad they really were since the 64-59 double-overtime loss to East Carolina to end the season.
This season, the defense could be playing with the proverbial chip on its collective shoulder.
“I think we have a lot of hungry guys,” Bazzie said. “With that being said, it’s a lot of guys who want to make plays, who want to win. With the competition in position, that has allowed people to stay consistent, to stay more hungry. I think that’s the difference (between) last year and this year. People know that you’ve got something at stake.
“We’ve got a big group of seniors and we all don’t want to leave without a (winning season). We all came in together, and we all know, ‘Look, man. We’ve all been here five years. The chemistry is good. There’s no reason why we can’t win.’”
Fourth-year head coach Doc Holliday said not recruiting enough athletes to counteract the spread offenses that many teams run these days has plagued a lot of defenses. He feels the Thundering Herd has addressed that area, with young players such as redshirt-freshmen A.J. Leggett and Corey Tindal in the backfield and Kent Turene at linebacker only a few expected to make an immediate impact.
“We understand our problems,” Holliday said. “We understood what our personnel problems were a year ago. You’ve got to have athletes, and now we have more of them. You’ve got to have more pass rushers, and we’ve got more of them.”
“With these freshmen coming in and helping us out, giving us great looks on scout teams, giving us great looks out on the field, it allows us to come out here and have more fun,” Bazzie said. “We have more bodies, more people on the team. With the quantity of players, it helps a lot.
“It’s a great feeling to know that you have a lot of people wanting the same thing you want.”
— E-mail: gfauber