In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years or need a WiFi signal in Happy Valley to get your news, the college football landscape has undergone seismic changes in the last few years. Unless and until the NCAA does something about the Wild, Wild West vibe in the NIL world, college coaches everywhere suddenly find themselves needing to distinguish themselves in an ocean of lucrative opportunities.
Michigan State’s Mel Tucker is no different there. Coming off a hugely successful season where he made arguably the most effective use of the transfer portal in the country, he found himself with two assistant openings after former defensive line coach Ron Burton and cornerbacks coach Travares Tillman both moved on to different schools. He replaced Tillman with a conventional hire, Marco Coleman from Georgia Tech (more on him to come), but in making his other assistant hire, Tucker went a considerable distance outside the box to hire one of the most intriguing up-and-coming coaches in the sport.
Brandon Jordan’s meteoric rise into one of the world’s most sought-after pass rush coaches reads like a feel-good movie script. He went from laid off by Austin Peay in 2015 to volunteer-training high school kids in New Orleans to working at a gym owned by Von Miller and Aqib Talib in Dallas by 2018, when he hooked up with his first NFL client, Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Then Gerald McCoy sought Jordan out, and then he got his first wave of draft prospects - soon-to-be first-rounders Rashan Gary, Clelin Ferrell, and Ed Oliver among them - and then it was off to the races.
The Arizona Cardinals brought Jordan in for a coaching internship during their 2021 training camp, and Jordan was bitten by the desire to get back into coaching, despite having finally built a successful freestanding training program. Ergo, when Tucker mentioned to the Cardinals’ defensive line coach Brentson Buckner that he was looking for a pass rush specialist, Buckner passed Jordan’s name along.
If a similar staff setup to Michigan State’s exists elsewhere in college football right now, I haven’t heard of it. Jordan’s title is pass rush specialist, which will mean heavy work with the defensive linemen, but presumably also with the linebackers and defensive backs as well, in tandem with the more conventional coaches of those position groups.
Placing Jordan in a full assistant role allows him a greater range of recruiting freedom under NCAA rules than he would be afforded as an off-field analyst. On the trail, he can show prospects an arguably unmatched resume of not only past work with NFL stars, but a continuing relationship with them. Tucker has not only allowed but encouraged Jordan to use MSU’s facilities to keep holding his training seminars, and it’s not much of a leap to imagine that those seminars will line up with major recruiting weekends so that a much-desired blue chip just happens to run into Maxx Crosby or whoever in MSU’s football building. Michigan State landed a commitment from 2023 4* DE Andrew Depaepe within days of Jordan’s hiring, and finds themselves in the running for some big fish on the defensive line.
There is some risk involved in this arrangement. It’s not clear what if any responsibilities Jordan will have on game days, and constant, deliberate communication will be crucial when players get extensive coaching from multiple guys. Compared to the possible upside, though, those feel like easy concerns to get past.