Exactly one week ago, the first rumors of the impending departure of Robert Gillespie were released. It would be made official on Saturday that Gillespie was leaving after a successful three year tenure in Chapel Hill, leaving a vacancy for Mack Brown to fill. After nearly a week of searching and deciding, the Tar Heels have found Gillespie’s replacement.
After the initial rumors and talks pointed to him, the Tar Heels have officially settled on Auburn tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Larry Porter. Porter, who spent the last four seasons as part of Gus Malzahn’s staff on the plains, was not retained this offseason as part of new Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin’s staff, giving the Tar Heels a chance to bring Porter back to Chapel Hill.
Porter previously served as a running backs coach for the Tar Heels from 2014-16 under Larry Fedora and led the Tar Heel backfield to some nice success. In those three seasons, the Tar Heels averaged 174.1 yards per game and saw Elijah Hood put up one of the most successful single season rushing performances in program history, rushing for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns in the 2015 season. Hood and fellow running back T.J. Logan really shined under Porter and both went on to make the NFL after their Tar Heel careers concluded. Porter will be hoping to duplicate some of that success in his return.
Porter has had plenty of success at his other stops besides Carolina, which includes stops with Arkansas State, Oklahoma State, LSU, Arizona State and even a stop at Texas with Mack Brown. Among those who he has helped put in the NFL are names like Tatum Bell, Vernard Morency, Jacob Hester, Charles Scott, Joseph Addai, Marion Grice and Malcolm Brown. In his sixteen seasons as a running backs coach, Porter’s teams have ran for an average of 173.1 yards and he has produced a 1,000 yard rusher in eight of his 16 seasons.
The Tar Heels will also be landing one of the country’s better recruiters in Porter. Porter was named the top recruiter in college football by Rivals.com in 2007 and 2009, landing three five stars and eighteen four stars since 2005. Among those highly-rated prospects that have been recruited by Porter are names like Russell Shepard, Terrance Tolliver, Michael Brockers, Jordan Jefferson and Drake Nevis. He also landed three-star prospects like Michael Carter, Lamin Barrow, Jason Strowbridge, Dazz Newsome and D’Onta Foreman. Porter has repeatedly done damage in states like Florida and Texas that are extremely competitive state’s to recruit in, so he should have no problem making an impact wherever Mack Brown asks him to recruit.
Losing Gillespie, who simply did a tremendous job developing the Tar Heel backfield in his three years in Chapel Hill, was a tough pill to swallow, but this is an extraordinary hire by Mack Brown. Porter is one of the more decorated running back coaches in the country and his return to Chapel Hill is an exciting move. This hire instills a lot of hope that the Tar Heels backfield can continue the success that they saw under Gillespie.