Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Razorbacks lose a good one in Partridge
Charlie Partridge speaks during a news conference where he was introduced as the new NCAA college football coach at Florida Atlantic University, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 in Boca Raton, Fla. Partridge served as assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Arkansas last season. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
FAYETTEVILLE - Without doubt Charlie Partridge inherited the best portion of the Razorbacks’ defense upon his arrival at Arkansas in January, and without doubt he made the best part better.
The defensive line that Partridge coached stood out even as the Razorbacks floundered to 3-9, including 0-8 in the SEC.
Now Partridge becomes concerned not just with coaching a defensive line but coaching an entire team after officially becoming the head coach at Florida Atlantic on Tuesday.
It’s a great step for Partridge, and in one way a great step for Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, the head coach for whom Partridge toiled from 2008 through 2012 at Wisconsin and during the 2013 season at Arkansas.
A head coach’s family tree of assistants sprouting to become head coaches inevitably helps that coach when it comes to hiring ambitiously capable assistants down the road.
Stemming from his Wisconsin days, Bielema has former assistants Dave Doeren (North Carolina State), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh) and now Partridge serving as head coaches.
Assistants, including and perhaps especially the ones Bielema eventually interviews as potential replacements for Partridge, will take note of Bielema’s disciples who are running their own show.
Bielema likely will get a good man to work in Partridge’s stead, but Partridge will be missed nonetheless. Working together as teammates and then graduate assistants at Drake University and Iowa State before reconnecting on Bielema’s staffs at Wisconsin, defensive coordinator Chris Ash and Partridge have had a unique and brutally honest chemistry that has brought out the best in each other, Bielema has said.
On a 4-3 Arkansas defensive alignment full of holes at linebacker and the secondary, Partridge inherited one junior and three senior starters end to end and a redshirt backup defensive tackle, Darius Philon, who was once bound for the University of Alabama before some last minute scholarship limit juggling by the Tide led Philon to sign a letter of intent with Arkansas.
The returning starters - senior end Chris Smith, junior end Trey Flowers and senior tackles Robert Thomas (until injured) and Byran Jones - played their best football for Partridge.
Philon and Jones especially stepped up following Thomas’ season-ending injury.
Philon was one of four Razorbacks named to the All-SEC freshman team. Partridge helped recruit two others on that team, SEC Freshman of the Year running back Alex Collins and offensive guard Denver Kirkland, both of whom are Florida natives just like Partridge . Along with linebackers coach Randy Shannon, the former University of Miami head coach, Partridge avidly worked Florida on Arkansas’ behalf in January and eventually ended up signing safety De’Andre Coley and defensive tackle Ke’Tyrus Marks.
Both bore promise while redshirting in 2013, Bielema said.
Young reserve defensive linemen Deatrich Wise, Brandon Lewis, Ja-Michael Winston and DeMarcus Hodge presumably benefitted from Partridge’s tutelage, too.
Partridge soon will discover many head coaching unknowns that even longtime assistants don’t fathom, but as far as the coaching and recruiting part of it are concerned, Florida Atlantic hired one of the best.
Sports, Pages 14 on 12/18/2013