When safeties and special teams coach Chris Partridge addressed the media for the first time this spring last Thursday, his tone was noticeably different.
Partridge’s words carried an audible bark. A sense of pride. A palpable sentiment of determination. After a disappointing end to last season, the fifth-year assistant likened the lingering feeling to blood in his mouth.
Just a week after a 41-15 loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl, news broke that defensive line coach Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Al Washington were heading to Ohio State. Partridge took it as another blow to the jaw.
“I don’t wake up a day and don’t think about (last season),” Partridge said. “I know (defensive coordinator) Don (Brown) feels the same way. I want to be canny, (Mattison and Washington) left and it was another shot. It wasn’t okay.”
So far this spring, Partridge has used the feeling of betrayal as fuel.
“I’m ultra-motivated,” Partridge said. “I make sure my guys, the ones I get in front of, they hear it and they know that every single day when I wake up, I’m motivated. I want to take this thing and I want to hit in the mouth and I want to go get it. … I’m going to coach harder than I ever imagined I could coach. I’m going to be more aggressive than I ever have been before, and we’re going to try to make sure that scoreboard never looks like it did last year.”
Both moves left Ann Arbor in a state of shock, but Washington’s was easier to understand. He grew up a Buckeye fan because his father played football for the program.
Mattison’s decision, on the other hand, caught U-M by surprise. In his second tenure with the program, Mattison spent the last eight seasons coaching five defensive linemen — Rashan Gary, Maurice Hurst, Chase Winovich, Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley — to All-Big Ten selections. Hurst (Raiders), Charlton (Cowboys) and Wormley (Ravens) are already making names for themselves in the league, while Gary (Packers) and Winovich (Patriots) heard their names called in last month’s NFL Draft.
Freshman defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson hoped Mattison would help him reach such heights. Prior to last season, the 69-year-old told Hutchinson he would either retire or renew his contract at the end of the season.
Instead, Mattison bolted for Columbus. At Ohio State, he’ll see an expanded role — and a considerably larger paycheck — as first-year head coach Ryan Day’s defensive coordinator.
“I found out he’s leaving,” Hutchinson said after Michigan’s spring game. “I’m like, ‘Oh, okay, whatever.’ And then he said Ohio State. That kind of makes your stomach turn a little bit. … I wouldn’t mind if he went to any other school. But that shit kinda hurts.”
Bolting to Columbus is a far cry from renewing a contract or retiring, to say the least. Now, Hutchinson will see his former position coach on the opposite sideline when the Buckeyes roll into Ann Arbor on November 30.
“That’s (Mattison’s) decision,” Partridge said. “He made his bed, so he’s got to lie in it.”