EAST LANSING – Brandon Jordan was thriving as a private trainer, working with some of the top pass rushers in the NFL.
However, the pull to get back into coaching remained. Whether that was in college or the NFL, he just wanted to be “back in the grass.” Then Michigan State coach Mel Tucker called and Jordan is the program’s new pass rush specialist.
“This has been my dream to get back into coaching. … Once I got this call, I ran to it,” Jordan said Tuesday. “Especially at a program like this for a head coach like that, Coach Tucker. Just talking to him, coming here interviewing with him and just seeing his vision, this was the place to be.”
Jordan is still working with NFL players but doing so in East Lansing while also coaching the Spartans. Tucker called the unique position of a pass rush specialist on a college staff a “cutting edge hire” when it was announced Jan. 15. Now two months into the job and with Michigan State nearly halfway through spring practice, the addition of Jordan has been notable.
“Just in the first few months … it’s crazy how much we’ve all learned from him,” Michigan State defensive end Jeff Pietrowski said. “When you’ve been around the game for a while, you think you know a little bit about something and then he comes in and kind of just blows your mind.”
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Jordan, a New Orleans native, was an offensive lineman at Ouachita Baptist and Missouri S&T before eventually playing overseas. While in college, a torn hamstring took him off the field but also kickstarted his coaching career as he began working with players. Jordan was an assistant offensive line coach at Missouri S&T in 2012 and a graduate assistant at Austin Peay in 2013 before that turned into being the program’s defensive line coach from 2014-15.
After feeling slightly “forced out” after three seasons at Austin Peay, Jordan was unable to land another coaching job and returned to New Orleans. While volunteering as the defensive line coach at John Ehret High School from 2016-18, he began working with players on his own.
“Doing that, it made me a better coach because I had to really start studying the game,” Jordan said. “I didn’t have to work scheme and things like that so I started studying the game and being an O lineman, I knew what beat me as an offensive lineman.”
Jordan launched his company, Brandon Jordan Trench Performance, in December 2018. Some of the high school players he trained were experiencing success and he was active sharing videos on social media. They gained traction and, after Jordan moved to Texas, ultimately caught the attention of Damon “Snacks” Harrison, an All-Pro defensive tackle who retired in November. The two worked together, posted videos and that led to beginning to train All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
“Once that happened,” Jordan said, “it blew up for me.”
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Jordan has worked with some of the top pass rushers in the NFL, including Von Miller, Cameron Heyward and TJ Watt. The experience training high school players in detail made it “easy” working with NFL stars. And it was a two-way street.
“They made me better just for picking their brain as I made them better,” Jordan said of working training NFL players. “It was kind of like an iron sharpens iron with that.”
Jordan believes every year of training made him a better coach but thinks his successful business had teams uncertain if he wanted to get back into coaching. He said there were a few offers to be an analyst, including one at LSU.
“That was off the field,” Jordan said. “I’m a hands-on coach.”
Jordan landed an internship last summer with the Arizona Cardinals as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program. That connected him with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, who is now with the Jaguars. Buckner ultimately recommended Jordan to Tucker.
“He’s an awesome coach, he has great energy, he’s got experience,” Tucker said of Jordan last month. “Obviously he’s got a lot of credibility because of the guys that he’s worked with – it’s been all word of mouth. I know one thing, with NFL players, if you can’t help them, they don’t want to have anything to do with you. Obviously he knows how to get guys better and get guys paid. He’s a great guy and he wants to continue to develop as a coach and he really wanted to be here so he’s an excellent fit.”
Pietrowski first heard about the hire on Twitter and was impressed. He immediately wanted to find out more about the new member of the staff.
“I texted a few people because I didn’t know a whole bunch about Coach Jordan,” said Pietrowski, who was tied for second on the team last season with 5.5 sacks, “and everyone I texted that was plugged into the (NFL) was like, ‘yeah, this guy is the real deal’ and he came here and he’s showing us why he’s the real deal.”
Tucker had a trio of departures among his 10 on-field assistants and restructured the staff. Instead of having two spots dedicated to the secondary, he is coaching cornerbacks and hired Jordan to focus on pass rush, along with Marco Coleman as the new defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator.
“B. Jordan is doing a great job and we are getting some rush and we’re making some improvements with the inside guys and the outside guys,” Tucker said. “We adjust the approach and Coach Coleman working together, it’s a strong tandem there.”
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Jordan’s job has him working with anyone rushing the passer, from a 330-pound defensive tackle to a cornerback blitzing off the edge. He cycles through positions during practice and was working with linebackers on Tuesday. The goal, regardless of where guys line up, is to teach gradually through details for players to eventually put everything together.
“I’m trying to make it where it’s muscle memory,” Jordan said, “and it’s self-correcting.”
Michigan State tied for ninth in the nation in sacks last year at 3.2 per game but also gave up the most passing yards in the country while facing the most pass attempts. Jordan believes the team was getting good pressure but can make adjustments with the focus on beating the man in front of them without worrying where the quarterback is.
“Guys can be freaky athletes but don’t have body control, don’t know how to understand,” Jordan said. “It’s a lot of eye discipline too. It’s your eyes, it’s your hands, it’s your feet.”
Michigan State is strong at defensive tackle with starters Jacob Slade and Simeon Barrow back, along with experienced depth. The outlook at end is different with starters Jacub Panasiuk and Drew Beesley gone after combining for 12.5 sacks last year. However, Jordan is confident in those in the room and has a broad target he’s striving to reach with everyone.
“My personal goal, I want them to be the best pass rushing group in college football,” Jordan said, “but we’re going to work like that every day to be that.”
Jordan is still working with 195 active NFL players and had a large group of them on campus last week. He shows some of the footage to Michigan State players and believes that helps in their development. His experience working with some of the top players in the sport is also a factor in recruiting. Less than a month after Jordan was hired, the Spartans picked up a commitment from Andrew Depaepe, a 2023 four-star defensive lineman from Iowa.
“It helps me out a lot just because of the guys I work with,” Jordan said. “Most of those kids when they call me, they’re just asking questions on how was it to work with him, what moves he uses and things like that. It’s a big advantage because I was working with a lot of these guys’ idols.”
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