Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has finalized his coaching staff for the 2018 by promoting defensive line coach Charlie Partridge to assistant head coach, hiring Western Michigan defensive backs coach Cory Sanders as safeties coach and making official the hiring of Paris Johnson, Sr. as assistant director of player personnel.
Partridge, 44, is in the middle of his second term at Pitt. He coached defensive line, linebackers and special teams for the Panthers from 2003 to 2007. After that, he went on to coach at Wisconsin, Arkansas and spent three years as the head coach at Florida Atlantic from 2014 to 2016.
He returned to Pitt in 2017 as defensive line coach and oversaw a much improved unit that relied heavily on young players such as redshirt freshmen Keyshon Camp and Rashad Weaver and sophomore Amir Watts.
“In only a year’s time, Charlie Partridge has made a tremendous impact on our program,” Narduzzi said in a statement. “Charlie is universally respected for the type of leader, coach and person he is. His promotion to assistant head coach is well deserved as he has been so invaluable in so many different areas. We are incredibly fortunate to have him, along with his wife Julie and two wonderful daughters, as part of our Pitt family.”
Partridge is a strong sign for the Panthers. In addition to his defensive coaching duties, Partridge is the area recruiter for Pitt on Florida’s East Coast, where they’ve landed talented players in each of the last two classes. As our Mike Vukovcan opined earlier this month, keeping partridge was a necessity for the Panthers.
Sanders will be the Panthers 10th assistant and round out the portion of the coaching staff that is allowed to recruit on the road. He spent the last year as defensive backs coach at Western Michigan. Before that, he was the defensive coordinator for the Division II West Florida Argonauts from 2014 to 2016. He was the head coach at his alma mater, St. Joseph’s (Indiana) from 2011 to 2014. Pitt defensive coordinator Randy Bates coached at St. Joseph’s from 1984 to 1988.
“I am really energized and honored to accept this opportunity to join Coach Narduzzi’s staff at Pitt,” Sanders said. “The University of Pittsburgh has such great football history and also ranks among the very best academically as well. Coach Narduzzi is building something special at Pitt and I can’t wait to hit the field this spring and start coaching. It will be an honor to walk into schools on recruiting visits wearing that Pitt logo. I’m excited to work hard and help keep the program’s momentum rolling.”
Sanders will assume the role that was supposed to belong to Archie Collins, who has since been promoted to defensive backs coach in the wake of Renaldo Hill’s departure for the Miami Dolphins.
“Cory Sanders really impressed us during the interview process,” Narduzzi said. “We will be adding a young, up-and-coming coach who has outstanding football knowledge and really excels at teaching the fundamentals. Cory is also a relentless recruiter with a great eye for evaluation. He is a great addition to our staff and now gives us two coaches—along with Archie Collins—who will focus on the secondary.”
Johnson comes to Pitt after coaching safeties for two years at Savannah State University. Before that, he served as a recruiting assistant and defensive graduate assistant at Michigan State from 2013 to 2015, where he overlapped with Narduzzi for two seasons. Johnson was a fifth-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 1999 and played one season in the NFL after graduating from Miami (Ohio).
“I’ve known Paris Johnson for a very long time, dating back to the 1990s when he was an outstanding safety at Miami of Ohio,” Narduzzi said. “He then worked for us as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. His experiences as a player and assistant coach will be great strengths for not only our recruiting office but also our entire program.”
Johnson’s son, Paris Johnson, Jr., is one of the nation’s top sophomore recruits as an offensive lineman at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. The younger Johnson has visited Pitt. A new NCAA rule implemented in 2017 requires there to be a two-year waiting period before and after the hiring of anyone associated with a recruit. Johnson, Sr.’s hire comes a little over two years before his son is expected to enroll in college.
Johnson will replace Da’Vell Winters as assistant director of player personnel. Winters worked one season with Pitt before returning to the University of Oregon, where he had worked previously.
Pitt has had significant turnover in the coaching staff in 2017. Offensive line coach Dave Borbely came over from Maryland to replace John Peterson, Randy Bates was hired from Northwestern to replace defensive coordinator Josh Conklin, who moved on to become the head coach at Wofford College.