In just its second year of existence, the NCAA transfer portal has added a completely new element to the college football offseason that previously didn’t exist. The Tar Heels have seen seventeen players enter the 2021 portal since this summer of 2020, but earlier this afternoon, the Tar Heels dipped their toe in the transfer waters for the first time this season to add to their backfield.
As first reported by Inside Carolina and later confirmed by a post on social media, the Tar Heels landed a commitment from Tennessee transfer running back Ty Chandler just shortly before 2:30 PM on Tuesday afternoon. In his four seasons in Knoxville, Chandler amassed 2,511 scrimmage yards and never ran for less than 300 yards in a single season. This past season as a senior, Chandler ran for 456 yards and four touchdowns, while also catching 16 passes out of the backfield for 111 yards, but lost carries to Eric Gray as the season went along. His most successful season with Tennessee came back in his sophomore season in 2018, when he finished with 812 yards from scrimmage and seven scrimmage touchdowns on 134 total touches. He was also a productive kick returner for the first three seasons of his career with the Volunteers, averaging 22.3 yards per return and finding the endzone once on his 35 career returns.
Chandler’s commitment to Carolina doesn’t really come as much of a surprise considering his recruitment to Tennessee was headed up by current Tar Heel running back coach Robert Gillespie. The two reportedly had an extremely strong relationship according to those close to the Tennessee program prior to Gillespie’s departure and it was one of the main reasons that Chandler was able to play a pretty sizable role as a true freshman back in 2017. He will give the Tar Heels an experienced running back that compares pretty nicely to the departed Michael Carter who thrived in each of his final two seasons on campus in Phil Longo’s offense. Chandler has good straight line speed, hence the reason he has handled kick return duties, and causes a lot of problems when he is able to get to the edge. He has tremendous vision in the open field and is able to hit the holes he finds with ease thanks to his strong cutback ability and acceleration. He isn’t going to run with nearly the physical edge that Javonte Williams did for the Tar Heels in his time on campus, but he isn’t afraid of contact and played in the extremely physical SEC where he had to deal with some of the nation’s most physical defense. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and did so at a solid clip in his time with the Volunteers. On paper, this seems to be the perfect one year addition that will help with the transition of the Tar Heel backfield that has to replace one of the best running back duos in program history.
The Tar Heels aren’t a team that frequents the transfer portal, but this feels like a situation where it was definitely necessary. Picking up Chandler for his final season of eligibility will help a 2021 Tar Heel backfield that will be rather inexperienced around him, but won’t limit the Tar Heels on the 2022 recruiting trail, which possesses a ton of talented targets for the team at the position. This also looks like a good situation for Chandler, who will be hoping to close out his career with a career year and make a final push at an NFL future.