Linebackers coach Chris Partridge and tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh learn from each other as much as possible. Both are relative newcomers to coaching NCAA football, and they both help coach special teams, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
What may be even less surprising is that this culture of learning spawns from a competition-rules-all culture in Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s staff.
When Jay coaches the field goal unit, Partridge does everything in his power to make sure Jay’s unit falls short and his own unit blocks the kick. Then, after the competition, the two will study what they can do better.
According to Partridge, competition is an important aspect in everything the assistant coaches do, from having the strongest work ethic to recruiting the best young talent. That’s just part of working on a staff led by Harbaugh, who only wants highly competitive coaches.
“Jim is not demanding in terms of setting the hours,” Partridge said Wednesday. “He’s demanding (that) the people he hires love what they do, and they work hard at it. So there is no ‘Oh, I’m going to sleep in today.’ It’s ‘I’m going to pop up, I’m going to get in that office, I’m going to work late, I’m going to make sure these kids are prepared for the game or prepared for life.’ Whether it’s doing class checks or calling recruits or whatever it may be, it’s an atmosphere of just loving to work.”
Partridge first joined the Michigan football team as a director of player personnel in recruiting in January 2015, and a year later, was named the linebackers coach. He jumped onto to the NCAA scene after coaching at Paramus Catholic (N.J.) High School (the alma mater of freshman defensive end Rashan Gary and redshirt sophomore linebacker Jabrill Peppers).
There’s a great deal of adjustment that comes with that transition, and it appears Partridge couldn’t have landed in a better environment.
“I feel like I’m becoming a better coach,” Partridge said. “You go into the bye week and you reflect on all of the players and individuals and your schemes and everything, but also, I was able to reflect on where I’ve come from. I just feel like on a constant basis, I’m becoming better. And coaches are allowed to improve, too.
“You’ve gotta understand the mindset of this place. You can learn every single second of every single day. I try to take on as much as possible. I try to hang on every word Don (Brown) says or coach Harbaugh says, and I try to learn and improve."
A position on Harbaugh’s coaching staff entails a lot of hours. Partridge says, “We’re here early, we’re out late,” but that’s not because of a set schedule that requires the coaches to spend every waking hour at Schembechler Hall. Rather, it stems from a desire to continually develop.
“When you have a guy that’s leading you put in as much work as he does and continue to push, you’re not going to slack off,” Partridge said. “Is it demanding? Yes. Does it feel demanding? No. Do you get tired? No, I don’t, personally. I don’t think we do because we just love what we do.”
While it’s clear that Partridge is benefitting from his position, his job is to take care of his players.
Partridge’s job description requires him to improve his linebackers unit, but he also maintains how critical it is to also develop the players on his team, whether that’s preparing them for the NFL or life after football.
“If you want to become a better football coach, find your way on Jim Harbaugh’s staff. That’s really what the culture sets. It’s the same thing with a player. If you want to become a better young man, play for Jim Harbaugh. I honestly believe that, because that’s the entire culture set here at all times.”