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Ole Miss’ new defensive coordinator Chris Partridge is the next big thing

The hire was overshadowed by D.J. Durkin’s cloud, but rest assured this dude is legit.

Alex Cohen-Michigan Daily

Chris Partridge was hired on the same day as former Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin who, for good reason, stole most of the spotlight because of his controversial rise back into the Power 5 coaching ranks as Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator.

Partridge, along with new tight ends coach Joe Jon Finley, didn’t get much fanfare on that day because of the media circus and news cycle that followed up Durkin’s announcement, but let’s get one thing straight, Partridge joining Lane Kiffin’s staff is the biggest win so far for the Rebels and their new head coach.

The former New Jersey high school coach at perennial power Paramus Catholic joined Jim Harbaugh’s staff in 2015 and accomplished a TON in four short years, mostly on the recruiting trail.

And that is why this is so huge.

Ole Miss stole a blue blood’s best recruiter.

We’ve talked about it on our podcast and it’s been discussed elsewhere, but Partridge was essentially Harbaugh’s Mariano Rivera. After securing five-star defensive tackle and No. 1 overall player in the 2016 class, Rashan Gary, the Wolverines hired Partridge and he didn’t stop there.

In the 2019 class alone he signed:

  • 5-star DT Christopher Hinton (No. 15 overall)
  • 5-star S Daxton Hill (No. 24 overall)
  • 4-star S Quinten Johnson (No. 182 overall)
  • 4-star CB Jalen Perry (No. 190 overall)

Even more important in my opinion, is where he signed them from. Hinton and Perry are from Georgia, Hill is from Oklahoma, and Johnson is from Washington, D.C.

Michigan Insider’s Austin Nivison talked with 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong about the departure and how it impacts the Wolverines and Harbaugh moving forward. They both agree, it’s a huge blow.

Partridge is one of the best recruiters in the country, and that’s no good news for a team that’s not exactly recruiting at a national title caliber level anyway. On the latest episode of the Notorious B1G Podcast, 247Sports Director of Recruiting Steve Wiltfong talked about how the loss of Partridge will affect Michigan.

According to Wiltfong, the Wolverines assistant coaches carry a lot of the load when it comes to recruiting. Partridge was a coach who was willing to compete with other programs anywhere in the country for recruits. Partridge was always grinding on the recruiting trail for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, and he got results.

Nivison and Wiltfong also talk about how Partridge, who is now firmly embedded in SEC country, was already making inroads and then some in the Southeast, honing in on Willie Gay and Otis Reese. The latter signed with Georgia, but is now in the transfer portal and could be a name to know moving forward. The former, as you know, signed with Mississippi State after being a one-time Ole Miss commit.

But the fact remains, Partridge was a heavy hitter for Harbaugh who, regardless of what you think of him and the Maize and Blue, is one of the top coaches in the country at one of the biggest and most successful programs in college football.

And now he wears an Ole Miss polo when he goes into living rooms.

He’s got some recruiting hardware if he wants to flex.

The Hackensack, N.J., native wore several hats during his career in Ann Arbor, working under Harbaugh as their director of player personnel in 2015. He then coached special teams and linebackers in 2016 and 2017 before moving into his most recent role as special teams coordinator and safeties coach in his last seasons.

But regardless of the room he was in, the one constant was recruiting.

He was named recruiter of the year in both 2016 and 2017 and finished in the top-five in the 2019 cycle. It’s been a while since Ole Miss not only had a head coach with national brand and cache, but now they have an assistant who can trot into a recruit’s house and show off his hardware of being one of the best in the country.

Now, I get it, it’s easier to recruit to Michigan than it is to Ole Miss. The network expands farther, the winning is at a higher level, and there’s quite a bit more tradition there. But, the guy who was doing that recruiting is now on staff at Ole Miss and that can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and he can coach, too.

The former Paramus Catholic head coach was doing big things at the high school level before he made the leap to the Power 5 ranks of college football. Upon his arrival, the Paladins were abysmal to be honest.

When he was hired in 2010, PC was 4,250th nationally and 112th in state of New Jersey. By 2014, Partridge and the Paladins were the best team in New Jersey and No. 4 nationally, per USA Today’s Super 25. After going 10-11 in his first two seasons, Partridge led PC to two-straight state titles and 29 wins in his final three seasons and coached 30 Division I signees in the Garden State.

Then after arriving in Ann Arbor, Partridge kept it going.

He was a part of a defensive staff in year one that ranked first or second in the country in seven(!) categories, including total defense, scoring defense, tackles for loss, first downs allowed and third-down conversion percentage allowed. But, the real coaching feather in his proverbial cap was what he did with former Paramus Catholic player Jabrill Peppers.

The former five-star and No. 3 overall player in the country had himself quite the campaign with the help of his former high school coach.

  • Consensus All-American linebacker nod
  • Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
  • Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
  • Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year
  • Finished 5th in Heisman Trophy
  • 25th overall pick in 2017 NFL Draft

As a safeties coach, the Wolverines never finished worse than 5th in pass defense during his tenure. And this past season, the Michigan defensive unit finished top-10 in four different defensive categories, including passing yards allowed, first down defense, and team defensive passing efficiency.

Sure recruiters are a must in college football because, as you know, it’s all about the Jimmies and the Joes, but once they sign, Partridge is coaching them up as well.

With all this said, we have to bring it up again how impressive it was for Kiffin to poach one of the nation’s best recruiters from one of the biggest programs. Not to mention this is a guy who was courted by the greatest coach in modern college football, Nick Saban, and turned him down because Harbaugh gave him a raise AND new title.

Partridge was adamant about loyalty to Michigan and Harbaugh and that’s why he ultimately chose to say “no” to Saban. In an interview with The Blade’s Kyle Rowland back in 2018, he went into detail about his decision.

“I see that all over the place in college football, and I just wanted to be different,” Partridge said. “It was easy for me to decide to stay. It would have been harder to leave, no matter what the job was.

“[Harbaugh] gave me a shot. Not a lot of people would have given a high school coach a shot.”

Sure, you could also say he’s a hypocrite now that he left Ann Arbor for Oxford, but the guy seems to be a hungry, up-and-coming assistant that is now working for Kiffin and the University of Mississippi.

And one thing is for certain, you have to like recruiting with him rather than against him.