Just before the country plunged into shutdown mode, football coaches on the West Coast were able to attend one final clinic before the annual Glazier Clinic series was shut down. In the process, Liberty head coach Ryan Partridge got to spend some time with highly successful Ferris State head coach Tony Annese. The end result sent shockwaves throughout the Bay Valley Athletic League and North Coast Section on Wednesday.
Partridge and Annese, who has the highest winning percentage among all active college football coaches, spent some time together in March, and Annese decided then that Partridge would be a perfect fit for his staff, which has sent 11 players from its Division II program on to NFL rosters since 2018. It's no surprise that Annese immediately saw something he liked in Partridge, who has been immensely successful himself in his two head coaching opportunities at the high school level. And now Partridge is off to embark on a new career at Ferris State, located in Big Rapids, Michigan.
In his first head coaching stop, Partridge led Livermore to its best season in two decades, and then jumped at the chance to get rid of his commute and take over the Liberty program close to home. In three years with the Lions, Partridge went 34-5, won the 2017 North Coast Section Division I championship, the 2018 CIF 1-AA title with a win over Sierra Canyon and went 11-2 in 2019, reaching the NCS Open Division for the second consecutive season and only losing to Pittsburg.
Partridge's departure comes during a time of sudden transition for the Lions, which saw rising sophomore quarterback Jaden Rashada announce on the same day that he was leaving Brentwood for IMG Academy in Florida. Rashada saw time on the varsity level last season while backing up current Oregon quarterback Jay Butterfield.
Back in December, upcoming sophomore safety Brayden Holmes, who was a finalist for the Prep2Prep NCS Freshman of the Year award, moved to Santa Margarita in Southern California. Rashada already has an offer from Auburn, while Holmes announced his first major offer earlier in the week, from Arizona State. Along with its two young stars and head coach leaving, Liberty will also have a new defensive coordinator, as Brian Reel also stepped down earlier in the off-season to spend more time with his young family, after serving in that role for the Lions since 2012.
Partridge, who will also be vacating his role as the Liberty athletic director, will coach linebackers for Ferris State, which went 12-1 and reached the NCAA Division II semifinals last season after reaching the championship game in the previous year. He is heading to Michigan this week to finalize his contract with the Bulldogs, but announced his departure to his team and colleagues on Wednesday.
"A chance to work with Tony Annese is a chance to work for one of the top college coaches in the country," Partridge said. "This is an amazing opportunity to work on a staff which truly connects with its student-athletes and emphasizes the right things in life."
Partridge's departure might come at a difficult time for the Lions, who were returning to workouts this week following a long layoff, but the program might have an internal candidate in Matt Hoefs, who was set to replace Reel as the defensive coordinator after assisting last season and previously serving as a head coach at Dublin and Arroyo. That, of course, could depend on a number of logistics which will need to be figured out in a hurry with a (fingers crossed) rapidly approaching season. Either way, Partridge will depart with a host of terrific memories from his time on the Liberty campus.
"I could not have asked for a better group of players and coaches than what I worked with at Liberty," Partridge commented. "This has been my goal, to move on and get this opportunity, but the memories we made building this program will never leave me. I will have that connection to this entire group for a lifetime, and I will always cherish that state championship and the history we made for the city of Brentwood."
Partridge also spoke highly of his tenure as the Lions' athletic director, a role he filled for the past two years.
"Being on the forefront of change was a great experience, being part of a leadership team in a league that other leagues looked to for guidance and risk taking," Partridge added. "I have enjoyed the collaborative effort and the creativity of such a great group."
Liberty will now look to fill both positions as soon as possible.