Ole Miss DC Chris Partridge recruits players who want to be coached, says Rebels will play with chip on their shoulder
OXFORD, Miss. – When a high school star football player reaches college, one reality hits them right in the face – all the other players are talented too.
While some have always succeeded in the past on raw ability, in college, they must be humble enough to let their coaches improve their games.
Those are the kind of players Ole Miss defensive coordinator Chris Partridge wants.
“Any guy I recruit likes coaching,” Partridge said after Thursday’s practice.
“I like how they’re going to respond to what I’m telling them. I like teaching while recruiting. Seeing how they respond to their peers, their coaching. The beauty of what I like about Lane Kiffin and what he taught me is if this kid is a great player and he’s not going to be coachable, he can’t learn and he can’t fit in our program. We’re not going to take them. People would be astonished at the kids we’ve turned down, just because they don’t fit in our program. That’s what we do best and that’s why we can get them to mesh together and fit together because they’re like-minded. We work really hard at doing that.”
Ole Miss DC Chris Partridge
Partridge is in his first year as the Rebels’ defensive coordinator, a post he shared with D.J. Durkin last season. Although there has been a change in the man calling the defensive alignments, Partridge’s recruiting policy has remained.
“We recruit guys who can take coaching. If we feel that you don’t take coaching, you’re not going to fit here,” he explained.
As for the current defense, Partridge is pleased thus far.
“I like what I see, them running around and they’re competing. They’re all in the mix. We’re going to play the best guys. If it’s multiple guys, if we’ll rotate, we’ll rotate. If guys stand out, they’ll get the majority of the stuff. The bottom line is we want to build depth in this defense and play a lot of guys. We want a lot of roles for a lot of guys.”
Coach Chris Partridge
Ole Miss has a lot of guys on the practice field and appears to have much more depth than in the recent past. Cedric Johnson, KD Hill, A.J. Finley and Otis Reese highlight the returning players and they are being joined by such transfers as Troy Brown, JJ Pegues, Isheem Young, Ladarius Tennison and Jared Ivey.
Also, some true freshmen like Davison Igbinosun enrolled early and were able to participate in spring drills. That has allowed him and others to get a head start on their rookie seasons.
“He’s been here since January, so if he hasn’t grown, we’ve got issues,” Partridge said when asked about Igbinosun’s progress thus far. “Every kid who has been here since January we hope would grow.”
A chip on their shoulder
The Landsharks took a step forward in their success a season ago, giving up 13.6 fewer points per game in 2021 than they did in 2020, but Partridge does not want his defense to rest on its laurels – he is always looking for the unit to improve.
”We weren’t the best (last season), so we play with a chip on our shoulder,” Partridge said.
“Even when you’re the best, you have to keep going. That’s the beauty of the game of football. It humbles you every single day. Every play, every rep, it humbles you. You can be great ten plays in a row and give up a big play. You can’t get caught up in ‘oh, we improved.’ What can we do to get better now? What can we improve the improvement on? I think it’s easy for these guys to play with their chip on their shoulder. It goes back to who we’re recruiting, they players we’re bringing in here. That’s how you live in this sport. You have to have a chip on your shoulder, or you’ll get humbled immediately.”
Coach Chris Partridge
The first opportunity for the defense to show its improvement comes Sept. 3 when Troy visits Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.