Michigan’s traveling men on board with Harbaugh’s mission

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh takes a break at the 5th Quarter Football Camp Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

Ann Arbor – Nearly two weeks ago, Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge and five fellow football staffers left for an overseas trip to export the game.

They started in American Samoa on June 1, the first day of Michigan’s robust satellite camp schedule, and traveled to Australia before returning to participate in camps on the mainland.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff returned from Paramus, N.J., to work the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy in Detroit on Friday, then the 5th Quarter Camp on Saturday at Michigan Stadium for high school prospects grades 10-12. Among the participants were Michigan commitments J’Marick Woods, a defensive back from Florence, Ala., and Carter Dunaway, a tight end from Birmingham Brother Rice. Woods spent a good deal of time with Detroit Cass Tech defensive back Jaylen Kelly-Powell, a four-star prospect.

The Michigan coaches walked off the baking stadium turf on Saturday, their shirts drenched. Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison said their shirts have been even more soaked after working camps in Georgia and Mississippi.

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Harbaugh, wearing his trademark khakis and long-sleeve blue Block M sweatshirt on a 96-degree day, was hands-on the entire camp. He did passing drills with the quarterbacks and from the sideline threw through the goal posts.

He scolded a player early in camp for having a cell phone in his pocket, saying football can’t be played with a cell phone in a pocket, and he suggested that some of the players there as receivers should consider moving to defensive back because there’s a great need at the college level for DBs.

This wasn’t a satellite camp, but it was another camp date in a month full of camps for Michigan. The coaches will be back on the satellite tour beginning Sunday in Norco, Calif., then Houston, Dallas, Tennessee, Kansas and Utah, among other stops, next week. Next weekend, Michigan hosts the Aerial Assault quarterback camp and a Big Man camp for offensive and defensive linemen.

But all of this started at the beginning of June with Harbaugh at Bishop Chatard in Indianapolis and Partridge and fellow staffers Jay Harbaugh, tight ends coach, Tony Tuioti, director of player personnel, Jimmy Dougherty, offensive assistant, Michael Switzer, offensive analyst, and defensive analyst Rick Finotti traveling to American Samoa and Australia.

“It was a blast, just an experience of a lifetime,” Partridge said Saturday. “How many people get to do that and get on a plane with your comrades, with your fellow coaches, and take a trip like that in a short period of time, which made it even more interesting?

“The people out there are amazing. They have a love for football.”

Partridge said because of NCAA rules he is not permitted to offer details of any of the camps.

What he can say is they traveled over six days from Hawaii to American Samoa to Australia, and made stops in western Samoa and New Zealand, where they spent the night in an airport, for flight connections.

“I think Coach Harbaugh’s mindset in this whole thing is that so many people have such a love for the game and don’t get to get coached by such a high-level caliber coaches and organizations,” Partridge said. “He just wants to coach anybody, anywhere.

“We feel the same way on the staff; it’s just awesome. Whether you’re a prospect or not, it’s a hell of an experience for everyone. It comes from the top, obviously, but you coach everyone has hard as you can at all times.”

Partridge said the experience has made all of them better coaches.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s like practice makes perfect. We learn from each other, too. Being on the road together, what a bonding experience. We learn from each other constantly.”