Michigan filled its final coaching staff vacancy Thursday just in time to begin the final push before national signing day. New linebackers coach Chris Partridge is a familiar face who could prove to be a big asset on the recruiting trail this month.
Partridge is beginning his second year with the Michigan staff after coming to Ann Arbor last January to be the program’s director of player personnel. Partridge filled in as an interim assistant during bowl season, when defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin left to become the head coach at Maryland. Harbaugh raved about Partridge’s demeanor on the field before the Wolverines' 41-7 win over Florida in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and said he’d like to find him a permanent position on the staff.
“He’s a rising superstar in this profession,” Harbaugh told reporters in Orlando. “"He's doing an amazing job. If I had one more spot, another spot on the coaching staff, it would be Chris Partridge.”
Partridge’s interim spot was filled by new defensive coordinator Don Brown, but the departure of special-teams coordinator John Baxter created an opening last week and Harbaugh stuck to his word. Partridge will coach the linebackers and special teams in his new role.
The last time Partridge was in a coaching role was as the head of New Jersey preps powerhouse Paramus Catholic. There, he won two state championships with a team that produced current Michigan players Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, along with several other Division I prospects.
The up-and-coming coach tapped into his Garden State roots to help Michigan make good headway with several New Jersey blue-chippers while organizing the team’s recruiting operations from his office in Ann Arbor. Four of the top seven prospects in the state this year have either verbally committed to Michigan or are already on campus as early enrollees – a list that includes the nation’s No. 1 running back recruit, Kareem Walker.
As one of Michigan’s nine assistant coaches, Partridge’s role in scooping talent from his former home state can expand. Staff members who aren't coaches aren’t allowed to travel for recruiting, but now Partridge can hit the road. His first stop this week? New Jersey, of course.
Being able to deploy Partridge could give Michigan the edge it needs in landing the most sought after high school senior in the country: defensive tackle Rashan Gary. The 287-pound Gary is rated by ESPN as the best prospect in the country and is strongly considering going to school in Ann Arbor. Gary played his high school football at Paramus, where he was coached by Partridge.
“Of course, my head coach, I’ve got a great relationship with him,” Gary told the Detroit Free Press in late December. “Jabrill, Juwann, guys I know, if I go there, it could be guys that I could lean to, things like that. I guess you could say the family environment.”
Promoting Partridge doesn’t guarantee that Michigan will land the ready-to-play defensive lineman. It also isn’t why Partridge, who previously coached at The Citadel, got the job. It would be far too shortsighted to hand out a coaching position in hopes of nabbing one player on the recruiting trail. Nonetheless, it’s good news for the Wolverines that their strong connection in a talent-rich state is only getting stronger in the final weeks before signing day.