Partridge on the DL, production and more
Pitt DL coach Charlie Partridge met the media recently to talk about the line's production and more. Here's what he had to say.
When you went back through the offseason and evaluated your guys, did you get what you needed out of the group up front?
Partridge: Well, I mean, you saw a group that was progressing. I think there were things you saw get better through the course of the year. It was easier to watch the film from the second half as they came up in cut-ups than it was at the beginning and kind of realize the progress that we made. But I think us, as coaches, you’re never satisfied. You never get what you want. But I will say that we were playing better as the year went along and hopefully we pick up where that left off this spring.
Did you see a big step with Rashad Weaver and do you expect another one this offseason?
Partridge: I did, yeah. I did see a big step with him. His pass rush got more appropriate. I think, as you’re a young player, you’re trying to do one style of pass rush regardless, and then the scouting report gets out on you and they’re able to protect against that. He did a better job as the year went along of doing multiple things and the pressures and sacks started to ramp up really as the year went along.
You two experienced guys inside with Watts and Camp and some pretty talented young guys, too; is that a pretty competitive situation?
Partridge: Yeah, you know how it is. We’re always competing. There’s not starting job that’s locked up. Twyman has a ton of experience as well, so those three bring back the most experience but I’m really excited about - you know, Devin Danielson has some experience; the new redshirt rule allowed him to play a little bit. David Green Tyler Bentley - so you feel like you’ve got a nice group of young guys that are learning from those other three or four that have experience, so I’m excited about what the future looks like.
Tackles have different roles and different jobs and they’re not always going to put up big numbers, but do you think with the two older guys, are they the type of players that can put up some stats?
Partridge: I think they’re the type of players that fit what we do here. We’re a vertical attack type of defense, meaning we’re working on getting up the field. We’re not as - some teams play a 3-4 and they’re kind of more sideways, gap-maintenance type of team. We are a vertical charge attack team. I think with Keyshon and Twyman and Amir Watts, those guys are showing that they’re getting really good at how to vertically attack and make good fast decisions; that plays into it. The other guys that are young and behind them are really learning from them. So I’m excited about the stats that they can produce for us.
Jones obviously played a good bit and you’d figure he’ll step up to a bigger role this year. What about behind those two starters at end? What have you seen from the depth there?
Partridge: Deslin has some experience inside and outside; we’re kind of exclusively playing him at end right now. John Morgan is a young, talented player that played a little bit in the fall, but with Folston and Hendrix, he didn’t get as much opportunity, but there’s a young man who steps right into it. Chris Maloney is a great walk-on. We’re actually getting some inside guys some reps on the outside for certain situations, so that will be a little bit by-committee. But you’re right: Patrick and Rashad Weaver are the front-runners right now to start, but again, competition is open.
Knowing we’re six months away from the season starting, is Patrick ready for that step-up to be an all-the-time player?
Partridge: No, not yet. But the good news is, it’s what? March 21. So we’ve got a lot of time to get in there. But I’m excited about where he is at this point.
He seemed to make plays last year in limited opportunities; did he show you flashes during the season?
Partridge: Without question. One play comes to mind: against Notre Dame, he had a really nice physical play where he didn’t actually make the tackle but he kind of made the tackle for the other guy. That’s when you started seeing him make full-speed decisions, change the line of scrimmage, which is the first job for us - to reset the line of scrimmage in the backfield. I started seeing signs of him doing that and it just kind of went along from there and his role and his reps went up from there. So I’m excited about where he is.
Last year, this was a point of depth - your group - for this team. Do you still feel that way, that it’s a pretty deep group overall?
Partridge: I’ve learned over the years it has to be. There’s no choice. I made the mistake early in my career of not training for depth, and you have to. You’ve got to have a minimum, in my mind, of four tackles and four ends ready for every game. And you know things happen; this is a collision sport, so that means you’re going to have to have five or six trained and ready so that if something happens, those guys that are maybe below the fourth spot, so to speak, can move up into that position or that role.
We’ve got a long way to go. We’re in practice four of spring ball, but I feel like we have the opportunity to really build some quality depth by the time it’s game time in September.
With that said, you said you’d like to have four guys and when you named defensive ends, you only named four guys; are you a little concerned?
Partridge: No, I’m not. Because again, we’re training multiple guys. I think we have some nice young talent that’s coming in; we’ll see if those guys can play a role. But again, we’re cross-training a few guys from the inside.
Some of the teams you played at the end of last year, particularly Clemson, Stanford, Miami - some pretty good defensive fronts. Do you kind of gauge your group with those guys? You’re not going directly against them, but in the ACC, you have to keep a certain level at that position, right?
Partridge: Well, there’s certainly a time that you look at that and compare your group to them. There’s times that we study some of the best defensive linemen in our league. But at this point, we recruit the best players we can recruit and get them - to steal Coach’s quote, we get them three-percent better every day.
Like I told the guys, I thought we were better today than we were Tuesday. These are all clichés, but they become that for a reason. There’s a reason we all say the same things over and over: because it’s real, and if we’re better on Saturday than we were today, then we’re on our way to being a pretty good unit in the fall. But certainly you look to compare to some of those teams that have had a lot of success lately and you work to try to become where they’re looking at us. We used to look at N.C. State because I think you could argue in 2017, N.C. State may have had an argument that maybe they could say that they were one of the best or better D-linemen groups in the ACC, so that was a group, at the time, that we were looking at.
We’re always going to look at the better - we look at NFL film all the time. But then when you boil back down, you need to get your kids that you have - and I love the way they’re working - just get them three-percent better every day.