It didn’t take long for Chris Partridge to prove he was ready to help out a college football program, and now he has an award to show for it.
Less than two years removed from coaching Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey and less than one month after being promoted to linebacker and co-special teams coach for Michigan, Partridge took home Scout.com’s National Recruiter of the Year award.
Partridge earned the award after playing a key role in landing the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in Rashan Gary, helping implement the innovative-yet-controversial “satellite camps,” and hosting dozens of recruits on campus as a recruiting coordinator during the Wolverines’ regular season.
But to Partridge, it wasn’t until he became a position coach in December, allowing him to recruit off campus, that he truly got to make an impact at Michigan.
“If you think about it,” Partridge told the Daily on Wednesday, “I spent the entire year talking to these kids and their families, and then finally in December, I was able to get out there and get in their home and really meet them.
“It was awesome. I got to know who they really are. I was really excited about it, and I was trying to get to see as many as I could in December and January.”
After two months of joining his fellow coaches on the road, Partridge’s efforts as recruiting coordinator and assistant coach came to fruition. The Wolverines landed Gary, five other highly touted recruits from Partridge’s home state of New Jersey and ended National Signing Day with the nation’s No. 6 overall recruiting class.
When reflecting on the effort, Partridge, 35, cited innovation and quick learning as traits that allowed him to adapt to the college level.
“You’ve got to be open-minded when you come into a job like this,” Partridge said. “You’ve really got to be a sponge.
“I feel like in the game of football you can never learn enough. You can never stop moving.”
One of the most significant ways Partridge kept moving, even when NCAA rules mandated he could not travel to visit recruits, was through Michigan’s “Summer Swarm” tour. The series of football clinics were based in recruiting hotbeds such as Alabama, California, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania.
A large portion of Michigan’s recent signees attended the camps, validating their effectiveness. They were so effective, in fact, that both the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference have begun an effort to make them illegal.
When asked about the ethicality of the camps Wednesday, Partridge doubled down.
“It has nothing to do with poaching recruits,” Partridge said. “We’re going out, and we’re coaching football. If you came to those camps, you would see our coaches got off the bus, got out of their cars and just starting working and coaching. We weren’t evaluating, we weren’t standing there with a pen and paper or stopwatch, we were just coaching football.
“Maybe the people complaining about it don’t want to get off their butt and go do it. We’re willing to do it, and I think they should continue to let us do it more and more.”
With a slight post-signing day lull in the recruiting cycle, Partridge now turns his focus to learning his latest jobs. Though he was a successful head coach at the high school level, Partridge has rather large shoes to fill in 2016. He will replace D.J. Durkin — who became the head coach at Maryland in December — at linebackers, and, alongside tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh (who will serve as an assistant special teams coach), succeed John Baxter at special teams. The Wolverines finished 12th last season in special teams efficiency under Baxter, who left for Southern California.
Jay Harbaugh and Partridge plan to travel the country and visit practices and clinics to create a scheme for special teams. Partridge listed the Baltimore Ravens and “whoever’s good” as current targets.
“It’s like anything,” Partridge said. “You can always learn. You can always get better and learn. Baxter’s a great coach, and, of course, we’ve got heavy shoes to fill, but we’re just going to do as much research as we can and figure out exactly what schemes we want, work our kids hard and work tirelessly at getting them to fit into the scheme and do the right thing on the field and hopefully be pretty good.”
Partridge applies that principle to Michigan as well. Recognizing that he has less experiences than most coaches in Schembechler Hall, Partridge quickly began taking notes every step of the way.
“It’s like a coaches’ clinic every day,” Partridge said. “You can carry a notebook around and just write down what the different coaches say. You can sit in their office and always learn stuff from them.”
If he keeps up the award-winning pace, Partridge’s office might become a clinic of its own soon.