UM's Partridge makes smooth transition to coaching

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Bottom line, Chris Partridge is a coach.

He wasn’t performing that job last year, instead working as Michigan’s director of player personnel. But the guy Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called a “rising superstar” last December is back in his element, on the field coaching linebackers and special teams.

“It doesn’t get any better for me,” said Partridge, who coached the linebackers in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl after defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin moved to Maryland to become coach. “You attack any role you have. I attacked last year like it was the best role I could ever have. I got a new one. Maybe I like this one a little better.”

The former Paramus (N.J.) Catholic coach coached Jabrill Peppers, last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year, and incoming defensive tackle Rashan Gary before moving to Michigan.

“I want to be a coach, (Harbaugh) knew that,” Partridge said. “I put my trust in him. And just knowing I want to coach for Jim Harbaugh and I wanted to be at Michigan and I want to be at this place, and fortunately it worked out.”

At Michigan, Partridge has been absorbing everything he can and is working under new defensive coordinator Don Brown. Last year, Brown had the nation’s No. 1 defense at Boston College.

“It’s like a clinic here,” he said. “I can carry a notebook around and write something new that I learned every single day. I pride myself on trying to gain as much knowledge from anybody (so that) I can (apply) it to how I teach the players.”

The transition to coaching has been smooth. He played linebacker and had been a longtime linebackers coach, but also inherited the position group that lost the most personnel (three senior starters are gone).

But, Partridge is not worried.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We’ve got to get some young guys ready to go. We’ve got some great guys coming back. Ben Gedeon has stepped in and been an incredible leader right off the bat. Coach Brown is right there with me with the backers. He’s a seasoned veteran coach that understands how to get them ready.”

Just as Harbaugh did at the conclusion of the four practices in Florida last Friday, Partridge praised linebacker Mike McCray, whose shoulder is healthy.

“He’s been incredible the first five practices,” Partridge said. “He’s a pleasant surprise. You kind of knew he had it in him.”

As for Peppers, he is identified as a SAM linebacker in the defense. He still works with the secondary coaches in addition to his old high school coach.

“He’s kind of everywhere,” Partridge said. “He’s a smart football player that can take on a lot. We’re going to ask him to take on a lot, so the sky’s the limit on what positions he can play. We might even line him up at nose tackle if we can.”

Gary, the nation’s top-rated high school player, isn’t on campus, but Partridge already knows what he will bring to the team.

“You’ll be pleasantly surprised when he shows up,” Partridge said. “There are certain players that just have something. ... Jabrill and Rashan — they just have it.

“Every single play they play is 110 mph, so I expect huge things out of Rashan and he expects that out of himself. It’s not just going to be in the field, it’s going to be in the community here at the school.”

Calling all coaches

Harbaugh and his staff, in addition to older brother John Harbaugh and his Ravens staff, will work this week’s camp, which also features guest speakers in Baylor coach Art Briles and retired Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

The clinic begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

There are expected to be between 1,700-2,000 coaches in attendance.