EAST LANSING – The program found rock bottom. Attitudes were dismal. A leader was needed.
Enter Joe Bachie. Or, as he was known then, Joey.
Two rival schools in suburban Cleveland merged in 2013 to form Berea-Midpark High. That was Bachie’s sophomore year. The Titans went 2-8, but the seeds were planted about what was to come.
Bachie helped guide his team to an 8-3 playoff season the next year. In his senior year, Berea-Midpark made a repeat postseason appearance.
“He’s definitely always been the leader,” former Titans quarterback Nick Gassman said of Bachie. “I’m not much of a vocal guy. He was kind of that vocal guy that everyone looked up to. If something is going wrong, he’s gonna be the first one to come in and step up and say something and change whatever’s going wrong to make it right.”
There’s a right place, right time, history repeating itself vibe surrounding Bachie. Michigan State’s starting sophomore linebacker and leading tackler has, through two games, been a main cog in the Spartans’ key to defensive recovery on the field and healing from a dismal offseason away from it.
“I wouldn’t put my shoulder pads on if I didn’t think we were gonna win every game,” Bachie said. “That’s my mindset, that’s our team’s mindset. We’re gonna fight. We got our swagger back.”
The 6-foot-2, 233-pound Bachie has been a big reason for that, flying all over the field with reckless abandon and yet maintaining a cerebral poise in the middle of MSU’s defense. He has a team-high 21 tackles – six solo, 15 assists – in wins over Bowling Green and Western Michigan, with Notre Dame looming next Saturday (8 p.m./Fox).
“That’s gotta be one of my keys. I just gotta play fast,” Bachie said. “Me and coach (Mike Tressel) talked about it – be confident out there. And as a defense, I feel like we all are playing fast and confident, and that’s just helped us. And now we’re trying to build on it for Notre Dame this bye week.”
MSU coach Mark Dantonio said Bachie and fellow sophomore Brian Lewerke are both similar and poised for a breakout season, one quarterbacking the offense and the other running the defense.
“He has that sort of ‘It’ factor a little bit,” Dantonio said of Bachie. “You knew he was going to be a good player last year. … Physical and very hardworking guy. Brings a sense of that hard-work mentality to our entire defense. But he’s a great athlete, very active, and he’s been very, very productive.”