Strong play at fullback pivotal to CMU offense
Fullbacks are a dying breed in college and professional football, but Central Michigan's fullbacks Trevor Thomas and Joe Bacci are crucial to the team's offensive philosophy.
Bacci and Thomas won't have 1,000 yards rushing at the end of the season, but they still love their role — hit people hard, create running lanes and provide pass protection.
"Our position is important because we're out in front of the ball making blocks," said Bacci, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound senior. "We just lead up into the hole and blow shit up."
CMU relies on its fullbacks to be a "jack-of-all-trades," said running backs coach Gino Guidugli. They must be able to block like an offensive lineman, pick up blitzing defenders in the backfield like a running back and catch passes in the flat like wide receivers.
"They're huge in everything we do," Guidugli said. "Those guys play vital roles in what we do. They really embrace that role of being one of those guys up front."
Leading the way for running backs brings a lot of contact with opposing players, but that's a sacrifice both players are willing to make.
"It's just a mentality we have," Bacci said. "You know you're going to do it, so you've got to get your mind right and get your body right. (We) just come here day after day and do what we have to do."
Hitting people is a way of life for fullbacks. It's how they help the team win.
"I come with the mentality that I just want to win, and the only way I know how to do that is to hit somebody," Thomas said. "I'm not the quickest guy out here and I can't beat people with moves, but I can use my head and shoulders to knock someone down."
Opportunities to score are few and far between for the two bruisers, but when given the chance, they embrace the moment.
"When I caught (my touchdown against Buffalo in 2015), it was the craziest thing ever," Thomas said. "I lost my mind. I was going crazy."
Even though he is excelling in his role as the starting fullback, Bacci didn't plan on playing the position when he arrived in Mount Pleasant.
The senior Romeo native came to CMU as a linebacker, recruited by former head coach Dan Enos. Bacci was only offered two scholarships, the other coming from Toledo.
Shoulder injuries started to keep Bacci off the field, so he decided to make a position change after his sophomore year.
Since making the switch to fullback, his shoulder injuries have subsided and he has been able to get more playing time.
"Joe Bacci is one of the most versatile players on our team," Guidugli said. "We can move him around all over the place, which allows our offense to be very multiple."
Thomas didn't receive an offer to play college football at any level upon finishing his career at Davison High School. However, he didn't let that stop him from pursuing Division I football.
"I just wanted to play college football and I thought I could play D-I at the highest level possible," Thomas said. "I can hit with anyone."
The 5-foot-11, 215 pound junior has worked his way up from a walk-on practice player to being on the field nearly every game. Thomas appeared in 12 games last season and has played in the first three games of this season.
"Trevor has been learning from Joe, so he's in the same mold," Guidugli said. "If something happens to Joe, I don't bat an eye at putting him in the game."