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Pitt notebook: New position suits Panthers D-line coach Charlie Partridge

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 6:21 p.m.

Pitt defensive line coach Charlie Partridge's resume almost doesn't fit on one page.

In another Pitt life, he coached an All-American (linebacker Scott McKillop), was one of the architects of the 13-9 upset of West Virginia and was Darrelle Revis' position coach for his celebrated 73-yard punt return against the Mountaineers in 2006.

That was a decade ago. Since then, Partridge has been to three other schools, most recently as head coach at Florida Atlantic, where he was 9-27 from 2014-16 while trying to rebuild a program that hadn't had a winning season since 2008.

The difference between being the boss and leading one position is simple, according to Partridge:

He gets to coach football again.

“When you get to head coach, you don't get to coach as much football,” he said. “You work your whole life, you coach this game you love and, hopefully, you have a chance to be a head coach and now you're a CEO.

“You really miss (coaching). Sometimes, I see that in coach (Pat) Narduzzi because he really loves football.”

Tough teacher

Partridge might have the most difficult job on the Pitt staff after losing two seniors — defensive end Rori Blair and tackle Jeremiah Taleni — who were dismissed prior to training camp. Now, included among his tackles are first- and second-year players Amir Watts, Keyshon Camp, Rashad Wheeler, Deslin Alexandre and junior college transfer Kam Carter.

Partridge is content putting away the briefcase and getting dirt under his fingernails with the linemen.

“I'm getting back into the groove of doing things I did as an assistant coach,” he said.

There is plenty of teaching involved in his job.

“Most of these guys were so dominant in high school,” he said, “that they could get away with some technique things that when they get to this level, that first scrimmage in pads, they realize this isn't going to work.

“Inevitably, that player goes back to what worked in high school until he gets that play on tape that is really, really ugly.”

Partridge is tough on his players and doesn't apologize for it.

“I don't care if they like me,” he said. “They'll all end up liking me at the end of the day. There are days they don't and that's OK.”

New game

The game has changed since Partridge worked for Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt from 2003-07.

“Overall, defensive speed is so critical now as offenses have expanded to use the whole field,” he said. “Some teams you're playing, it's basketball. It's hard to even call it what we knew as football 15 years ago. (Offenses are) getting it out in space and saying, 'My guy is going to beat your guy.' When you do that, you have to have team speed.”

‘Drop and give me 20'

Defensive backs giving up deep passes in practice suffer the consequences.

“Any deep ball, you're doing pushups,” senior cornerback Avonte Maddox said.

That included every drill, including the 7-on-7s where it's much easier to complete a pass.

That's OK, Maddox said. “You have to make it a challenge.”

Maddox has done his share of pushups. “I'm not perfect.”

Pitt puts its cornerbacks in difficult, one-on-one matchups with pass catchers that Maddox said he welcomes.

“Anything that's easy isn't worth it.”

Increased swagger

Narduzzi sounds cautiously optimistic his secondary will be better.

“I like the swagger I see out of the secondary,” he said. “I don't know what it is. Is it more confidence, more knowledge? Are they stronger, faster? Even if a ball goes over their head, I see them come back the next play and make another play. I see a swagger I didn't see a year ago.”

Ollison No. 1 for now

Narduzzi said Qadree Ollison remains atop the depth chart at running back, but the coach doesn't expect to have one workhorse back such as he employed with Ollison in 2015 and James Conner last year.

“He's the guy to beat,” Narduzzi said. “He's got the target on his back. But Darrin Hall has looked good. Chawntez Moss has done some nice things.”

Even the freshmen are competing for playing time.

“A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley, two young puppies, I watched some of those guys make some moves and make some plays and find some holes.

“I'm not looking for that one tailback. I'm looking like, ‘Who are the top three?' I hope we have two or three we can rotate in and keep them fresh and give (the defense) a different guy to tackle.”

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