The Tar Heels have had a good start to the 2021 offseason as they continue to set the stage for an upcoming season that will carry some lofty expectations, even with all of the production that has to be replaced offensively. However, on Sunday afternoon, that task got a little tougher when the Tar Heels learned that they would be without one of the team’s most valued staff members over the past couple of nights.
As first reported by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and The Athletic, Tar Heel running back coach Robert Gillespie has accepted an offer to become the new running backs coach for Nick Saban and the defending national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gillespie will take over for the departed Charles Huff, who took over for Doc Holliday as the head coach at Marshall last week.
Gillespie was a member of the Tar Heel staff for three years, beginning in 2018 when he was hired by Larry Fedora ahead of what would be his final season in Chapel Hill. After a relatively successful first year with the Tar Heels, Gillespie was one of two staff members from that 2018 staff that was retained by Mack Brown when he made his return to coach the team in November of 2019. In his three seasons with the Tar Heels, Gillespie helped build the team’s backfield into one of the best in the nation, never rushing for less than 188.2 yards per game in a season and finishing each season with two running backs rushing for at least 500 yards. Gillespie helped develop Antonio Williams into a player that was a significant part of the Tar Heel backfield in each of his two seasons on campus ahead of him fighting his way onto an NFL roster this season. He worked wonders with both Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, both of whom are slated to be selected in the mid-rounds of 2021 NFL Draft, turning them into one of the best running back tandems in the country. His development of Williams, a player who came to Carolina ranked as the No. 94 running back in the 2018 class, into one of the top running backs in the entire nation is a great representation of just how successful his time in Chapel Hill was.
The Tar Heels will now look to lockdown his replacement as soon as possible ahead of what will be an important offseason for the position group that will have to replace both Carter and Williams, a tandem that totaled 2,957 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2020. There have been some interesting names that have already been brought up, such as former Tar Heel running backs coach Larry Scott and former Tar Heel running back Natrone Means, but there’s not denying that this loss stings.