Ian MacDonald – Staff Writer
It’s 4:05 p.m. as Brandon McCormick walks onto the field, kicking small rubber pieces up with every step. The sun ripples as heat bounces off the turf.
To his left and right players warm up and run through drills before practice even starts. Reading through the call sheet one last time, he blows a whistle, and another day of practice begins.
Last year McCormick held position as the academic coordinator, as well as the special teams and safeties coach for the Dordt University Football team. He led the special team’s unit to a record year, and led the Defenders to the second highest GPA in the team’s history.
All the while, in March of 2022 Coach Lynn Nutt, the defensive coordinator at the time, resigned.
McCormick quickly filled the gap. Though the transition challenged McCormick, working with Coach Nutt previous years made it easier.
“Thankfully, during my time under Coach Nutt, he made me feel like a co-defensive coordinator,” McCormick said.
He also said it’s very different to have this much control over the defense with 11 players going off whatever he says.
Since becoming defensive coordinator, McCormick has shared new ideas to improve the football team, one being that players are “playing fast and free at all times,” leading them to be “Christ-oriented.”
“Players should know that their identity is in Christ alone and not in football,” McCormick said. “It’s important that he is the foundation of everything we do.”
He has also incorporated “ball takeaways,” meaning a turnover defense. This is done through interception or punching the ball loose.
Almost every practice in a week contains a ball takeaway circuit, which includes four stations lead by a defensive coach.
Every station contains a ball carrier and one to two Defenders trying to rip or punch the ball out.
Sophomore Cornerback Chip Kasay loves how takeaway practices have affected gameplay.
“You could see how it affected our play in Briar Cliff.” Kasay said. “Anyone and everyone wanted a ball attempt and it really started to wear out the opponent.”
Despite being the defensive coordinator, McCormick has a very offensive background. He played high school quarterback for four seasons, and continued a collegiate career for two seasons at Maranatha Baptist and Crown College.
Dordt first hired McCormick as an offensive coach before he made the switch to defense. McCormick’s time on offense has helped him fulfill the role as defensive coordinator, he said.
“It helps me step into the O.C.’s shoes and have an idea of what he’s trying to do to attack us,” McCormick said.
Still, McCormick said he doesn’t think he fits the stereotypical role of a defensive coordinator.
“I’m not loud and in your face,” McCormick said. “I have a tendency as an offensive coach of thinking more about personnel than the play. I try to put the right players in the right spot.”
Being a defensive coordinator doesn’t come without its struggles. McCormick’s work schedule has increased since being appointed as defensive coordinator. He is constantly making cut ups for the defense, making call menus and revising them as the week goes on, and watching films.
The cut ups and call menus are from the last practice the defense had. He watches for what he likes or dislikes and edits the call menus as necessary.
McCormick also spends around 20 to 22 hours a week watching film, whether it be analyzing an opponent or watching practice films.
The team generally has five practices a week and a game on Saturday, but while the players focus on academics, McCormick is in and out of staff meetings and even preparing for a class he teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
With all the new responsibilities he has, McCormick said still he manages to find ways to keep stress and anxiety down.
“I care about my work a lot, and one thing that I’ve learned from the past two seasons is that if things don’t go the way I want them, it’s alright that I’m disappointed, but I cannot be devastated to the point it consumes me,” McCormick said. “I stay secure in my identity in Christ.”
McCormick wants to lead by example with his players in his philosophy. At the beginning of every meeting, all the players do breathing exercises to lower their heart rates in order to stay more focused for the upcoming meeting and practice.
“The lowest heartrate can win you a lot of games,” McCormick said.
McCormick looks to learn and refine his teachings throughout this football season and throughout the rest of his career.