FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is going home.
Partridge, a Plantation, Fla., native, was named Florida Atlantic’s next coach in a brief statement from the school Monday. The appointment came two days after the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Partridge had been offered the position and was likely to accept it, leaving his position on Bret Bielema’s staff.
The 40-year-old Partridge replaces Carl Pelini, who resigned on Oct. 30 with four games remaining in the season. He will be introduced during a press conference today after agreeing to a contract that will pay $2.76 million over the next five years, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Partridge’s departure leaves a big hole on Arkansas’ staff. Partridge had spent the past five seasons working for Bielema at Arkansas and Wisconsin, becoming one of his best recruiters and most trusted assistant coaches.
Partridge was especially valuable as a recruiter in South Florida, helping Arkansas start luring talent to Fayetteville. He played a key role in getting running back Alex Collins to sign with Arkansas last February. Collins was one of four players from South Florida who signed with the Razorbacks last year, joining offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, safety De’Andre Coley and defensive tackle Key’Tyrus Marks.
But Partridge couldn’t pass up an opportunity to become a head coach for the first time in his career. The FAU campus is roughly 25 minutes from his hometown in South Florida, giving Partridge a chance to run a program that has been in existence since 2001. Howard Schnellenberger served as the FAU’s coach for 11 seasons before Pelini was hired in 2012. Partridge is FAU’s third head coach.
He’s also the second assistant to leave Bielema’s staff for a promotion since the coach was hired last December. Receivers coach George McDonald left the Razorbacks after a short tenure to become offensive coordinator at Syracuse and he was replaced by Michael Smith, who left Kansas State for the Razorbacks.
Bielema was not available for comment regarding Partridge, who became the fifth Arkansas assistant to become a head coach in the past three years.
Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was hired by Alabama-Birmingham after the 2011 regular season, while former defensive coordinator Paul Haynes (Kent State) and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino (Idaho) became head coaches after the 2012 season. Former assistant John L. Smith also left Arkansas to coach Weber State after the 2011 season, but returned a few months later to lead the Razorbacks through 2012 after former coach Bobby Petrino’s dismissal.
Relationships and circumstances (aside from larger salaries and promotions) have an obvious impact on coaching hires across college football. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema may be tapping into both as he searches for a replacement for defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who was named Florida Atlantic’s head coach Monday. Below is a look at some defensive line coaches Bielema or other members of the Arkansas staff are familiar with and other defensive assistants who are — or may soon be — searching for jobs as the coaching carousel spins. It’s not known if any of these coaches will be considered for Arkansas’ staff, but it’s a good place to start:
Coaches with Ties to Bielema or Arkansas’ Staff
John Palermo – Pittsburgh defensive ends/linebackers coach
Coaching ties: Palermo worked with Bielema at Wisconsin in 2004-05. He also worked with LB coach Randy Shannon at Miami in 2006, and OC/QB Jim Chaney and OL coach Sam Pittman on Derek Dooley’s staff at Tennessee in 2012.
Notes/Thoughts: Palermo is a coaching veteran who has spent time on the same staff with several current Arkansas assistants. He played a big part in Wisconsin’s rise before Bielema arrived on Barry Alvarez’s staff. Palermo is completing his first year at Pittsburgh with former Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, but could provide big-time college football (Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Miami, Tennessee) and NFL (Washington Redskins) experience if the Razorbacks lured him back to the SEC.
Mo Latimore – Kansas State interior defensive line coach
Coaching ties: Latimore worked with Bielema at Kansas State in 2002-03. He also worked with WR coach Michael Smith at Kansas State from 1997-2005 and 2009-12
Notes/Thoughts: Latimore is the longest-tenured assistant coach in the Big 12 after completing his 30th season with the Wildcats. So the first — and biggest — question: Is there any way the Kansas State graduate would consider moving now? Bielema lured one K-State assistant to Arkansas last year. Maybe he could do it again.
Randall McCray – Gardner-Webb defensive coordinator
Coaching ties: McCray worked for Bielema at Wisconsin from 2006-09, spending the first two years as defensive line coach. McCray was recruiting coordinator in 2008.
Notes/Thoughts: McCray was Bielema’s defensive line coach at Wisconsin before he hired Partridge after the 2007 season. McCray then worked with outside linebackers and was the recruiting coordinator in 2008 and safeties coach in 2009. He moved on to run his own show as defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee in 2010. Now he’s the defensive coordinator on his older brother’s staff at Gardner-Webb.
Rick Petri — Duke defensive line coach
Coaching ties: Petri worked with Randy Shannon when both were assistant coaches at Miami from 1993-95. Shannon had Petri on his staff with the Hurricanes in 2010. Petri is familiar with the state after spending 10 years at Arkansas State (1979-88).
Notes/Thoughts: Petri played a part in Miami’s success during the 1990s, working with defensive linemen like Warren Sapp, Kenard Lang and Kenny Holmes. He has tons of SEC experience, but is currently successful with David Cutcliffe at Duke. It’s his second stint with Cutcliffe after working for the coach while at Ole Miss for six seasons. So getting Petri to leave Cutcliffe’s staff doesn’t sound simple.
Ron Aiken – Oregon defensive line coach
Coaching ties: Aiken worked with Bielema at Iowa from 1999-2001. Aiken was the program’s defensive line coach, while Bielema coached linebackers.
Notes/Thoughts: Aiken is finishing his second season with the Ducks after a six-year run in the NFL (Arizona Cardinals) and eight years at Iowa (1999-2006). It would be hard to imagine he’d be interested in moving to Arkansas considering Oregon’s success out West. But Aiken has been in the SEC before at Vanderbilt (1995-96).
Coaches on 2013 Staffs Undergoing Changes
Ed Orgeron – Former USC interim head coach/defensive line coach
Coaching ties: Spent two years as the assistant strength coach at Arkansas under Ken Hatfield in 1986-87. Orgeron was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07 and spent one season as assistant head coach/defensive line coach at Tennessee (2009).
Notes/Thoughts: Would Orgeron consider an assistant head coach/defensive line position at Arkansas? Would he fit with the staff? Orgeron is an assistant that will be in demand because of his success as a recruiter and defensive line coach. But he’s surely looking for a head coaching opportunity first after his interim success at USC.
Bo Davis – Texas defensive tackles coach
Coaching Ties: Davis has no apparent ties to Arkansas or the current staff, but does have plenty of SEC experience after working with Nick Saban at LSU and Alabama. He played at LSU, too, and is a Mississippi native.
Notes/Thoughts: Arkansas wants to be like Alabama and LSU along its defensive front. Davis knows what it takes after working with Saban at both schools. There’s plenty of uncertainty about Texas’ staff after Mack Brown’s resignation, leaving Davis as an intriguing possibility. But he’s another coach sure to have several offers after his successful career and background. Could Bielema land him?
Steve Caldwell – Arkansas State defensive line coach
Coaching Ties: Defensive line coach at Arkansas from 2010-12; Caldwell spent a little time around Bielema after the coach was hired in early December as well.
Notes/Thoughts: It’s not clear what will happen with the staff at Arkansas State after another coaching change, but Caldwell was well-respected and well-liked while at Arkansas. He did solid work helping recruit and develop defensive linemen during his three-year run as well (Chris Smith, Trey Flowers, Byran Jones, Darius Philon, Deatrich Wise, JaMichael Winston, Brandon Lewis, DeMarcus Hodge, etc.).