Alex Zordich entered the 2012 season with the purpose of beating out redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Licata for the starting position at the University at Buffalo. After starting as a true freshman and playing a full season behind Chazz Anderson as a sophomore, his time had arrived.
Now Zordich comes into this season with the purpose of being a backup, the proverbial one snap away but for as long as he plays the game, he will always have the mindset of a starter.
“Honestly, I have the same mentally I’ve had since Day One,” Zordich said. “In my mind I’m ready to play football and ready to win for this team. The guys know that I’m going to bust my butt everyday I’m out here and I’m ready to go. The coaches know that and I’m very verbal about that.”
His stats belie Zordich’s worth to the program although he can point to a few personal milestones like being the lone player to score a rushing TD as a true freshman and rushing for 501 yards in just nine games a year ago. The younger players can look to his leadership off the field as a student-athlete who will graduate in 3½ years.
“One of the things I’m most impressed with is his leadership and willingness to be a great teammate,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “He’s in there, spends a tremendous amount of time in learning the game, being one of those guys that people look up to. His teammates really respect the work he’s put in and the kinds of things that he brings to the table.”
Zordich, 6-foot-3 and a sturdy 227 pounds, was one of Quinn’s first recruits at UB. Quinn was recruiting him to attend Cincinnati, where he was the offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly, until he became the head coach at UB in 2009. As a senior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, Zordich was the leader of a state championship team that finished 15-0.
As a true freshman at UB, Zordich replaced Jerry Davis, who struggled to grasp Quinn’s spread offense, in the sixth game of the season against Northern Illinois. He came off the bench and completed 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards and started the next week against Temple. He started the next three games before suffering a rib injury against Ball State that sidelined him for the season. He played sparingly as a sophomore but won the job after a challenge from Licata during training camp last season. He started the first eight games of the season and while he provided production in the run game, he struggled as a passer before going down with an injury.
Licata stepped up and the offense showed signs of life. Even when Zordich was healthy enough to return to the lineup, Quinn remained with the hot hand of Licata. For the season, Zordich completed 106-of-208 passes for 1,254 yards, nine TDs and seven interceptions.
“He came in as a true freshman and was put into a very challenging and difficult situation but he’s such a competitor and great teammate that he went at it,” Quinn said. “Look at what he’s accomplished. He understands the value of education and he’s such a tremendous leader.”
Because he’s such a strong runner, Quinn and offensive coordinator Alex Wood are trying to find ways to get Zordich on the field.
“I want to play all the good players and if you have a lot of good players play them all,” Quinn said. “Find a way. We spend a great deal of time thinking about how we can continuously attack defenses. Zordich was very effective in managing and leading our offense so he brings skills and he brings opportunities that present our offense in a positive manner.”
Said Zordich: “I see myself contributing to the team. That’s passing, that’s running, whatever it is. Guys know that and they know that I’m ready to roll.”
He will graduate in December with a business degree – in 3½ years. The only other UB football player believed to have graduated in seven semesters since the program moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision is Drew Willy, the school’s career passing leader. This may be Zordich’s most significant contribution.
“Guys like to see action, guys don’t like to hear words all the time,” Zordich said. “I’m not a big believer in words, I’m a big believer in action. I do that with everything I do.”
Now, after struggling through three consecutive losing seasons, it’s time to win and Zordich wants to be in the mix in whatever capacity.
“Everyone reacts to guys who want it bad,” Zordich said. “We have a lot of guys on this team who are going to sacrifice themselves for this team and I think that’s a good thing. We have a lot of them so that provides for a good team and that provides for wins. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.”