JMU Athletic Communications
HARRISONBURG — Jordan Brown is playing the best he ever has in his career at James Madison.
“What you’re seeing is Jordan truly understanding his position more this year,” second-year Dukes coach Mike Houston said.
As top-ranked JMU prepares for its Saturday showdown at Delaware, the senior safety is second on the team with 20 tackles, tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks and has two interceptions, which are tied for second on the squad.
Brown was moved from cornerback to safety when Houston and defensive coordinator Bob Trott arrived last year.
Throughout Brown’s college career, he’s had to learn how to play different positions within JMU’s defense.
When he was at Seneca Valley High School (Cranberry, Pa.) he played quarterback and had aspirations of continuing to play the signal-caller spot in college. His older brother, C.J., was the starting quarterback at Maryland and his dad, Clark, played the position at Michigan State.
But Jordan Brown was moved to corner in his first year at JMU.
When asked if he ever thought he’d be capable of evolving into the tackling strong safety that he is now, even Brown admitted it took him time.
“To start off, I came here as a QB, so I had never played defense in my life,” Brown said. “I never really thought I’d be playing defense in the first place.
“At first, I was used to one position and the ball in my hands at all times, but I think I’ve adapted well to the corner and then safety position because I think I’m more of a physical guy. So I think it was the right choice for me in the long run.”
Brown said it was when Trott got to Harrisonburg and implemented a tackling style that was new to Brown that he began to realize he could have success at safety.
Trott said JMU uses “Seahawk tackling,” a technique that originates from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who’s been teaching it since he was coaching at Southern California.
“We’re not the only team doing it, there are a ton of teams doing it,” Trott said. “But it’s basically using your shoulder instead of your head. It’s a leverage tackling technique.
“I started using it a few years ago and I’ve studied it pretty good.”
Trott said every Tuesday and Wednesday each defensive position unit goes through tackling-specific drills during individual periods of practice. The second-year defensive coordinator added that in all team periods of practice, JMU emphasizes proper tackling techniques.
Brown said he thinks it’s helped reduce the number of missed tackles for the whole team.
“I’m confident going downhill like that instead of banging heads with someone,” Brown said, “so I’m able to come out clean.”
But what’s accelerated Brown’s progression the most this season is that he’s seemingly always in the right spot.
Brown said going through the same tackling drills, in addition to staying at safety within the same scheme for a second straight year, has allowed him to learn the entirety of Trott’s defense.
Brown is thriving in run support and making more plays around the line of scrimmage this year than he did last year. JMU boasts the 14th-best run defense in the country, yielding 76.8 yards per game.
Through four games last season, Brown had just 13 tackles and didn’t have a sack.
“I think that the design of the defense is for that position to be in that situation,” Houston said. “It was designed for it be that way last year, but first year in the system and the transition of [Brown] from corner to safety, it makes you not see the production that you’re seeing this year.
“He’s a player that has experience and understands where he fits and what his role is. He’s doing his job and doing it very well.”