One of the most obvious changes in the infancy Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan is the increase in resources allocated for recruiting. The Wolverines new headman not only added two additional recruiting coordinators, he also added more recruiting staffers to help process film and recruiting data. That newly expanded crew had hardly gotten to know one another when former director of player personnel Chris Singletary left to pursue opportunities in the professional ranks. That’s when Harbaugh turned to his new right hand recruiting man, Chris Partridge.
Partridge first entered the Michigan fan consciousness over three years ago as the coach at Paramus Catholic, the high school alma mater of then All-American recruit Jabrill Peppers. The impression he made on Brady Hoke-staff holdovers Singletary and veteran assistant Greg Mattison were instrumental in helping him get his foot in Harbaugh’s door. That was all the opening that Partridge needed. He was quickly thrust into a leadership role in early April and became the point-man for Michigan’s satellite camp tour. Then when the tour started he coordinated the coaching staff’s effort at every stop. That turned out to be his first major task as Michigan’s new Director of Player Personnel and Recruiting.
Of all the duties that Partridge’s new title entails, the one most evident to fans will be his direction in recruiting. No place has his influence been more visible than in his home state of New Jersey.
“I think he can have a huge impact (in New Jersey) because he knows how the dynamic works,” Scout.com East Regional Manager Brian Dohn said. “He understands where the players are (and) he relates well to kids. You saw that with how he built Paramus Catholic into a national power in a short amount of time. And he has got the personality to do it. He is engaging with kids, he knows the layout of the state, he knows where the good players are, and he knows who the people are that know the good players.”
Michigan appears to have become a major presence in the Garden State virtually overnight. In addition to the recent pledge form Camden (N.J.) defensive end Ron Johnson the Wolverines rank among the favorites from Camden (N.J.) wide receiver Brad Hawkins, Egg Harbor City (N.J.) Cedar Creek wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell, and five-star Paramus (N.J.) Catholic defensive lineman Rashan Gary.
Gary’s connection with Partridge is especially strong. The two withstood fierce scrutiny from rival coaches in northern New Jersey in the aftermath of Gary’s transfer from Scotch Plains (N.J.) Fanwood to Paramus. The accusations of impropriety were ultimately proven to be unfounded, and the bond between coach and player was fortified in the process. Gary’s mother Jennifer Coney has stated adamantly that her son would not choose Michigan just because of Partridge’s presence, but she did acknowledge that a familiar and trusted face in Ann Arbor is certainly an asset for the Maize & Blue. As a matter of fact she expects Partridge to be a positive factor with most prospects that consider Michigan.
“I think he has a great eye for talent,” Coney said. “Before Rashan even started high school I talked to him, (then) I came back to him and everything he said about Rashan was true. He’s honest, he doesn’t pull any punches, (and he) doesn’t lie about expectations. You may think your son is the best player in the world, but he is honest. I just think that‘s good. He has an eye for talent, he is honest, he is sincere, he likes what he does, and he does it well.”
That sentiment was recently echoed by the father of another top New Jersey prospect. Michigan is already hot on the trail of 2017 Paramus Catholic linebacker Drew Singleton, and the interest is definitely mutual. The elder Singleton saw Partridge’s appeal first hand two years ago when he was deciding which high school to send his son to.
“A friend of mine said, ‘why don’t you look at Paramus Catholic?’” Singleton recalled. “(The friend said), ‘my sons go there and there is a young coach there. He’s changed the whole atmosphere there. He is the leader. He cares about the kids. He cares about the education.’ I said, ‘okay, ‘I’ll take a look.’”
“We went over there and I didn’t say a word. Drew said everything. Coach Partridge never talked to us about football. He didn’t talk to us about football until it was time for us to leave. For about an hour he just talked to us about academics and took us around the school and talked about what the school offers. At the end, he took us into his office and talked to us about the upcoming season and the schedule. I liked that. It wasn’t about football, it was about the kids’ educations. He really gave that impression and it stuck with me.”
Not a One man Show
Partridge isn’t the only member of the recruiting staff espousing Michigan’s many virtues. He has two partners in that effort, starting with Matt Doherty. The former University of Miami recruiting coordinator has played a key role in helping Michigan expand its footprint in the talent rich state of Florida. Doherty was the point man at satellite camp in Miami, and the Wolverines have already picked up four commitments from prospects from that area. Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic cornerback Antwaine Richardson, Cooper City (Fla.) defensive end Rashad Weaver, and Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan safeties Josh Metellus Devin Gil have all committed to Michigan in the last month. The Maize & Blue is also among the favorites to land Flanagan four-star linebacker Devin Bush.
The Sunshine State, though, is a fraction of Doherty’s recruiting responsibilities. He assists in much of the national recruiting effort also. The third rung in Michigan’s recruiting wheel, however, is much more specialized.
Erik “Soup” Campbell recruited Detroit for years as an assistant at Michigan and then later at Iowa. Now he is back in Ann Arbor coordinating the Wolverines’ in-state efforts. He gives the new Wolverine staff a much needed familiar face on the home front.
“We go way back,” Detroit East English Village coach Rod Oden said of Campbell. “Soup is a straight shooter. When you got a kid that can play he’s going to tell you, ‘this kid can play… bring him up here…he’s a Michigan caliber kid. If he can’t, Soup is also a great enough guy to tell you, ‘you know what, that kid is maybe not ready yet… I’ve got some coaches I know (elsewhere) that you really should call.’ He’s done that for us in the past and we appreciate that about him. Having him back is like having one of us (in-state coaches) up there… somebody we can directly relate to.”
With the NCAA mandated dead period beginning today the entire recruiting staff will get a much needed breather. When it ends on July 13th expect the Wolverines to go full throttle again. A series of visits are scheduled for the last few weeks of July, leading into the “Barbecue at the Big House” recruiting event the first weekend in August.