The game clock hit triple zeros for halftime around 1:20 PM yesterday with Michigan State holding a 10-3 lead over the Maryland Terrapins. The weather (specifically the wind) was a factor in a low scoring half, but there was another force at play, too.
His name is Joe Bachie Jr. The Michigan State Spartans starting MIKE linebacker is in his second season as the team's starting MIKE and a key cog in Michigan State's defense. Behind junior defensive tackles Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk, Bachie's mental processing shines.
Big Plays Are Second Nature
After logging 100 total tackles as a true sophomore, Bachie is one again on pace for triple digits (100 on the nose). But more importantly, Bachie navigates himself to the football at a high level. It isn't just about tackles, but rather the splash plays. Bachie has four interceptions and an additional 4 forced fumbles over his time as a starter, many of those plays coming with splendid technique and awareness as a tackler.
The first half against Maryland was a great example. Maryland QB Kasim Hill flushed the pocket to his left, with Bachie in pursuit. As Hill neared the sideline, Bachie tomahawked the football, forcing a fumble that would go out of bounds. Later in the game, Bachie would arrive at the mesh point and collision the opposing back, simultaneously ripping at the elbow/football and forcing yet another fumble.
As a scout, any time you can identify fundamentals in live game action, it counts as a plus. From a scouting perspective, the implementation of technique into the game suggests that the speed of the game is moving at such a rate that allows for this added thinking and awareness. Here's a clear example of that technique from Michigan State's 14-10 win over Michigan last year.
And the speed of the game is no problem for Bachie. Bachie processes his keys (either guards or backs in the backfield) quite well. That discipline is a catalyst for his "intangibles" as a big play linebacker. Fast to flow means being the first to arrive at the football. First to arrive at the football equals plays.
Not Just Finesse
But don't mistake Bachie for a finesse linebacker. He's stout gap defender as well, he has the ability to stand up blockers in the hole. Here is an example thanks to a good friend, Russell Brown.
This is a normal occurrence on film. From my summer profile of Bachie:
"Has impressive mental maturity and quick decision making on run keys between the tackles, suddenly crashing down into a gap and addressing the ball carrier. Has a big, strong frame and is able to absorb contact from blockers and hold ground steadily."
If you pro team is in need of some help on the second level of the defense, it may be time to take a look at Sparty's MIKE linebacker. Bachie will be eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft as a true junior and his play over the past month has really taken flight.
With a strong finish to the season, Bachie may strike while the iron is hot. You can get to know more about Joe in this All-Access look courtesy of the Michigan State Athletic Department.