Since arriving in East Lansing in February 2020, Mel Tucker has generally maintained a uniformly upbeat, positive message about the current position and future trajectory of his program. But there was one moment, in the press conference after getting absolutely snowed under by Ohio State, where he let a certain truth be known:
Michigan State’s roster, as it stands now, isn’t good enough to do what Tucker wants to do. Tucker made his feelings on that clear by saying that, essentially, the best way to change the outcome he’d just witnessed was to get back on the recruiting trail.
That wasn’t really news, coming after a 49-point loss that could have been however bad Ohio State wanted to make it, and it’s not surprising considering Tucker’s time at Alabama and Georgia.
But, it was also the first thing that came to mind when the program parted ways with Ron Burton, the defensive line coach since 2013 and one of a few holdovers from the Dantonio era. The defensive line was quite good for Burton’s entire tenure, and for the most part, the defense overall was good, too. But Burton was not a difference-maker as a recruiter, and his defensive lines typically had one strong pass-rushing threat and otherwise a group of guys who held up well against the run but did not push the pocket much.
Tucker’s long-term goal is to recreate what the likes of Alabama and Georgia have built, a tall task when your program is several hundred miles away from the talent veins those programs are built upon. But it’s also plain he has a plan to get the type of player those teams are made of, by building a staff of assistants who can connect with today’s recruits. Most of all, that means showing players a real path to the NFL.
And so, Tucker made one outside-the-box hire in Brandon Jordan, a pass rush specialist who has never held an official coaching position anywhere near this level of football but has built himself into one of the most-respected pass rush coaches in the game. And, to complement that and bring more gameday experience, he also lured Marco Coleman away from Georgia Tech.
Coleman has the playing bona fides that Jordan doesn’t; in college, he starred for Georgia Tech’s shared national title team in 1990 and was then a 1st round pick. He spent fourteen seasons in the NFL from 1992-2005 with six teams, and rose quickly when he turned to coaching, going from a fellowship with the Raiders to an assistant DL coach spot in 2018, then three seasons as his alma mater’s DL coach from 2019-21.
The fit with Jordan will be an interesting one. Coleman is the official defensive line coach, and also has the title of defensive run game coordinator, while Jordan carries the label of pass rush specialist.