Coach's Corner: Partridge on Michael Hill

If the Ryan Mathews hate-tweets are any indicator, hell hath no fury like a Chargers fan without a star running back (blame LaDainian Tomlinson for years of spoiling). Looking to seize the baton is Michael Hill, an UDFA out of Missouri Western. To get a better sense of Hill's potential, we spoke with MWSU head coach Jerry Partridge.

Michael Hill racked up a slew of accolades during his tenure at Missouri Western State University. He participated in the inaugural Raycom College Football All-Star Classic as a senior, where he carried 12 times for 148 yards, earning Offensive MVP honors and leading his team to a 31-3 victory.

For more on Hill's explosive 2012 season -- and all his time at MWSU -- we check in with head coach Jerry Partridge.

Nicolette Harris: What stands out from your time coaching Michael Hill?

Jerry Partridge: Mike's real consistent. He's an incredibly hard worker and he's a muscled-up kid, as you can tell if you've seen him up close -- very low body fat, strong in the weight room. He's probably the hardest worker we've had over a five-year period. And, of course, there's his natural talent.

He's incredibly coachable. He's like a son to anyone who has coached him. There isn't anyone who doesn't like Michael Hill. I certainly wouldn't bet against him making the club. I think if he's given a fair shot, he'll make it.

NH: He's called 2012 his breakout season. Do you agree with that assessment?

JP: Well, he rushed for 1,500 yards or so (1,305) his junior year and he was first team all-conference that year too. I would say that was his breakout season. He actually shared time [on the field] with a kid his first couple of years, but his yards per carry and his production were very similar his first two years as well.

"I coached against Danny Woodhead when he was in college and I felt like [between the two of them] Mike's the better running back." --Jerry Partridge
NH: What will he need to improve on in order to transition smoothly to playing in the NFL?

JP: I'm not sure he needs to improve on a whole lot of anything, really. He just needs to be him and run hard. He's always had the ability to find the soft spot on runs; he's a great slasher; he's got a great feel for cut-backs -- he's going to be as physical as anyone the Chargers could throw out there. What he might lack in size (5-foot-11, 205 pounds). I think strength-wise he'll be as good as any of those guys.

Once the coaches get to know him they're going to understand what kind of a player he is. If the system's too complicated for him then I think the system is too complicated, because he's a smart player. I also think he'll be a great core special teams guy, not as a return man, but as a foot soldier during kickoff returns (blocking, covering).

NH: In terms of his playing style, are there any comparisons you might make to other running backs in the league?

JP: We had a guy whose son played for us (this guy played in the NFL and was actually an agent for a lot of years), and he compared Michael's style to Terrell Davis. I think Terrell is a little bigger than Mike, but it's a similar style: it's a slash, hit hard and get down hill kind of guy. He'll try and make you miss, but if you're not interested he'll run you over if he has to. And his stiff-arm is a weapon.

NH: The Chargers don't seem to have any problem with smaller running backs, either, what with Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, etc.

JP: Well, you know, Danny Woodhead is on the club. I coached against Danny Woodhead when he was in college and I felt like [between the two of them] Mike's the better running back. Danny's a return man and can do a lot of other things, but I think Mike's the better running back.

NH: What is Michael Hill like off the field?

JP: He's just a good human being that cares a lot about doing things the right way and treating people the right way. He's real soft-spoken -- his voice doesn't carry a whole lot. He was a good leader for us, but not in an outwardly "ra ra" kind of way. On the same token, I do think that behind the scenes he has a good sense of humor and is kind of an instigator with practical jokes and things like that. Overall, he's someone who is interested in making things better and having his team win.

Can rookie RB Michael Hill make the final roster? Discuss in the message boards.

Nicolette Harris, a native San Diegan, is a senior at New York University as part of the school's Media, Culture and Communications program.

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