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B1G 2023: Michigan State’s New Coaches

How do you measure a coach’s quality if they move every season?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma-Spring Game
Field’s that way, guys.
Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

When we came to Michigan State’s turn in the B1G 20XX last offseason, I actually had an opinion on an assistant hire for the first time in quite a while, because Mel Tucker brought in a guy 1) that I had heard of, and 2) was not some retread he liked to play golf with.

Evidently you’re going to have to take my word for it, as this website’s archives no longer appear to contain a substantial chunk of the stuff I’ve written for it. So it goes.

Anywho, the guy I’m referring to specifically here was Brandon Jordan. He’d had a meteoric rise in the coaching world, albeit by an unorthodox path: after getting laid off from a lower-division school, he just trained some high school guys in defensive line technique, and the videos got around, and eventually he had NFL players inquiring about his coaching, and not just NFL players, but a gaudy list of the best pass rushers in the business.

Mel Tucker came calling and gave him a full-time job offer, while also allowing him to keep coaching his NFL clients on the side - a win-win for everyone involved, since now any defensive line recruits coming to visit MSU would just happen to run into Maxx Crosby or whoever, what a fun coincidence.

Aaaaaand this arrangement lasted all of one year, as Jordan left for a job with the Seattle Seahawks. A great opportunity, to be sure, but it’s nearly impossible to assess his impact on MSU’s defensive line players, both because he was only around for a year, and because MSU had another DL coach, Marco Coleman, who also left after one year to return to his alma mater Georgia Tech. What was clear is that Jordan was a formidable recruiting presence, as MSU’s 2023 class is fortified most of all by an outstanding group of defensive linemen, and none of them have bolted as of this writing (perhaps because they can’t exactly follow Jordan to the Seahawks).

All of which brings us to: MSU once again has multiple assistant jobs to fill, so let’s see who Mel Tucker placed in these critical spots in what could be a make-or-break year for his MSU tenure.

Defensive Line Coach: Diron Reynolds

Reynolds has the type of resume common to lots of coaches, with stops just all over the map and a couple of jumps that make you wonder how in the world he got that interview. He got his collegiate start with Wake Forest in the late 90s, spent one year at Indiana, then vaulted onto the Colts’ staff, where he would have worked with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He got his first NFL position job with the Dolphins, then the Vikings, then went to Stanford at the height of David Shaw’s ride there (we’re now in 2014), flipped over to Oklahoma for 2015, and then back to Stanford, from whence Tucker retrieved him.

deep breath hoo that was a long sentence to mentally say all at once.

So there’s a diversity of experience there, for sure. His NFL bona fides are a little dusty, but hopefully time hasn’t careened forward so far that high school kids won’t know who Dwight Freeney is, and even as Shaw’s Stanford slumped, their line play remained reliably good. Given that he’s standing in for Brandon Jordan, though, his recruiting chops will be very important, and between Stanford operating on a different set of parameters than everyone else and all that time in the NFL, he’ll need to borrow some notes on the hellscape that is modern recruiting.

Cornerbacks Coach: Jim Salgado

This one’s even harder to parse. Salgado hasn’t coached college since 2009, and a large portion of his collegiate coaching was in the Ivy League; like Reynolds’ Stanford time, this means his recruiting experience is probably meaningless. Salgado was most recently the Buffalo Bills’ safeties coach, but they fired him in January after a six-year run.

By itself, that’s kind of a curious decision, given the success Jordan Poyer and former Iowa Hawkeye Micah Hyde enjoyed under his tutelage, but it seems when Bills DC Leslie Frazier stepped away, it meant the axe for other defensive assistants. Their loss will hopefully be MSU’s gain, as the secondary has been an unmitigated disaster during Tucker’s tenure, even with well-respected, longtime Dantonio assistant Harlon Barnett still around and Tucker himself being a defensive backs guy.

If it seems like there’s a unifying theme between two guys with pretty different track records and specialties, it’s because there is: I have no real idea what to make of either of these hires. Both are longtime veterans with a lot of contacts in a lot of places, but both are also coming off of fairly long stops after nomadic careers; what’s left in the tank for two assistants who may have just left what they thought was the long-term job?