John Baxter, Ex-Wolverine

Tag: Chris Partridge

7Jan 2016
Blog, homepage 6 comments

John Baxter, Ex-Wolverine

John Baxter

Michigan special teams coordinator John Baxter is no longer coaching at Michigan. He has been re-hired at USC, which is where he was before spending one year in Ann Arbor. Michigan took a step forward on special teams this year, doing an excellent job on kickoff returns (#3 in the country with 28.4 yards/return), pinning opponents deep on punts, and covering kickoffs, not to mention thwarting a couple attempted fakes by Florida in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan also forged a pretty decent kicker out of Kenny Allen (80% on field goals, 100% on extra points), who spent the previous three seasons concentrating on punting. There were a few hiccups along the way, though, including the dropped punt snap that lost the Michigan State game, a punt return touchdown allowed against Indiana, and a long return allowed against Rutgers. Michigan was better on special teams, but not great.

It’s unclear how Baxter’s position will be filled. Michigan recruiting coordinator Chris Partridge was on staff temporarily for the Citrus Bowl after defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin left Michigan for the Maryland head coaching job. Durkin tried to take Partridge to Maryland, but he stayed at Michigan after being promised an “increased role.” This may be that increased role. Prior to coaching Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Rashan Gary, and others at Paramus (NJ) Catholic, Partridge was a position coach and assistant special teams coach at both Lafayette and The Citadel, so he does have some experience with coaching specials. If Partridge were to take on a coaching role, there have been rumors that Devin Bush, Sr. – the father of Michigan early enrollee Devin Bush, Jr. – will leave his head coaching job at Pembroke Pines (FL) Flanagan to take on a recruiting coordinator role for the Wolverines.

Baxter’s recruiting area was the West Coast. This change should not affect the Wolverines greatly in that area, since Jim Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, Jay Harbaugh, and Greg Jackson have all spent time living and coaching on the Left Coast. Baxter was also in charge of implementing a respected academic program to help athletes stay on track while playing sports, a program he puts in place wherever he goes.

18Mar 2015
Uncategorized 12 comments

My Take on Michigan’s Recent Staff Hires

Erik Campbell (right) worked at Iowa with head coach Kirk Ferentz

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When Jim Harbaugh was negotiating for the job at Michigan, he required permission to expand the football staff. Obviously, athletic director Jim Hackett agreed, which has resulted in a hiring binge. These hires have been well publicized in the last several weeks, and I want to take a look at a few of them.

Erik “Soup” Campbell, unidentified administration job: I have talked about Erik Campbell several times on this blog, and devout Michigan fans are probably already familiar with the name. Campbell was a safety and wide receiver at Michigan in the 1980’s, became a GA for the Wolverines in 1988, and then coached the wide receivers for the Wolverines from 1995-2007 under Lloyd Carr. His acolytes include Braylon Edwards, David Terrell, Marquise Walker, Mario Manningham, Tai Streets, Jason Avant, and Steve Breaston, among others. When Rich Rodriguez was hired, he somewhat inexplicably fired Campbell, who went to Iowa and coached Marvin McNutt, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, and tight end Tony Moeaki. He has spent the past two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes. It’s unclear what Campbell’s job description will be at Michigan, but it’s a possibility that he will replace Jedd Fisch at some point. Fisch was hired on a one-year contract and generally changes jobs every couple seasons. Campbell’s return to coaching the wide receivers would be welcome.

Hit the jump for discussion of three more staff hires.

Rick Finotti, Director of Football Operations: Finotti was the head football coach at Cleveland (OH) St. Edwards from 2009-2014, winning two state championships. One of his players (Kyle Kalis) ended up signing with the Wolverines, although St. Edwards was known more as a pipeline to Ohio State. Players from the state of Ohio aren’t going to accept scholarships to Michigan just because the Wolverines hired Finotti, but he does know the lay of the land and could provide some connections to schools and coaches in the area. A director of football operations does a lot of the dirty work for a football program. He’s in charge of making travel arrangements, prepping facilities for practices, arranging summer camps and clinics, etc. Since high school coaches often have to do these types of things on their own, becoming a college director of football operations is largely doing the same things but on a higher level.

Col. Jim Minnick, Director of Football Operations: It’s unclear how the jobs of Finotti and Minnick will differ, but Minnick was a childhood friend of Jim Harbaugh’s and became a United States Marine Corps recruiter. He was working in Kansas City as the area recruiter for 14 states when Harbaugh got the job in San Francisco, and the two have remained close friends. Here’s an interview of Minnick from 2011 (LINK). With the military connection, it reminds me of how Brady Hoke sent the seniors in 2012 and 2013 to train with the Navy SEALs at Coronado. Anyway, Minnick obviously has some organizational skills since he was in charge of recruiting 14 states for the Marines, and he connects the Marines closely to the game of football in that linked interview. It will be interesting to see how his old job and his new job dovetail, but I expect positive results. Plus, Minnick and Harbaugh teamed up to help at a car accident scene on I-94 a couple weeks ago, which brought some positive publicity their way (LINK).

Chris Partridge, Recruiting Coordinator: Partridge was the head football coach at Paramus (NJ) Catholic for five years, up through 2014. Two of his players (Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty) ended up signing with the Wolverines, and a 2016 prospect from Paramus is one of Michigan’s top targets – and one of the top few players in the country – in the form of Rashan Gary. Recruits constantly mention Partridge, who must have one of the most active Twitter accounts around. Partridge reportedly had a deal in place to join the Rutgers program, but the state school of New Jersey received some flak from high school coaches around the state because Partridge had a bit of a bad reputation. It turns out that Paramus, which is a private school, did some recruiting and pulled in some of the state’s top prospects, including Don Bosco’s Peppers. When the agreement with Rutgers fell through, Harbaugh pounced on the opportunity to reel in Partridge. California, Florida, and Texas are some of the most recognized football player-producing states, but New Jersey’s reputation as a football hotbed might surprise some. Getting Partridge on the staff could help Michigan make some inroads where a cultural connection between Ann Arbor/New Jersey has long been apparent.

Obviously, it’s too early to tell the results of Jim Harbaugh’s hires. However, one thing seems to be clear – Harbaugh is bringing in people who do their jobs well. They might not be at the highest level of the sport, but these people are all winners who have been go-getters. Reaching the FBS level of coaching is not for followers, so I don’t mean to imply anything negative about Brady Hoke’s staff (Aaron Wellman, Roy Manning, Darrell Funk, Dan Ferrigno, etc.). But the differences are stark between the two staffs.

Finotti and Partridge are young-ish high school coaches with multiple state championships each. Erik Campbell is a college coach who has tutored multiple first round draft picks and All-Big Ten performers. Colonel Jim Minnick is, well, a colonel in the Marines. Greg Jackson is a former All-American and NFL safety. The list goes all the way down to Jay Harbaugh, who at the young age of 25, has been around a Super Bowl team with the Baltimore Ravens. Obviously, he has a lot to prove as a coach, but these guys are all winners on an individual or a team level.

All of these men have succeed, know how to succeed, and come from various backgrounds. While a few have worked together, they are not a group of friends who have meandered through college football by each other’s sides. I won’t pretend to know all the staff members at the football powerhouses around the country, but it’s hard to believe that many staffs – including coaches and administrative guys – have amassed more impressive collective resumes.