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UNC adds Tennessee running back Ty Chandler as transfer in move to reload backfield


Adam Smith   | Times-News

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina has picked up Tennessee running back Ty Chandler on the transfer market, a potential impact addition with the Tar Heels seeking to reload their backfield after a pair of NFL departures.

North Carolina said Tuesday afternoon in a statement through a team spokesman that Chandler will join the program for spring semester classes, which start Jan. 19, and have one year of college eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer.

Chandler played in 46 games and made 25 starting appearances across the last four seasons at Tennessee, where his 3,291 career all-purpose yards rank fifth in school history. He led the Volunteers with 630 rushing yards in 2018 and 655 rushing yards in 2019, before checking in second on the team behind Eric Gray with 456 rushing yards this past season.

“I have decided to use my last eligibility year to grad transfer to the University of North Carolina,” Chandler wrote Tuesday in a social media post. “I look forward to the journey that I’m about to go on and friendships that I will make with my new teammates. 2021 is going to be a special season in Chapel Hill and I can’t wait to get there to begin to work.”

The Tar Heels are coming off an 8-4 season that ended with their first-ever Orange Bowl berth and first appearance in a major bowl in 70 years, and finished No. 18 in the final Associated Press poll that was released after midnight Monday, following Alabama’s defeat of Ohio State in the national championship game.

North Carolina figures to be viewed through a national lens of lofty expectations next season, with a possible Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Sam Howell entering his third year at the controls and just one starter combining both sides of the ball — only receiver Dazz Newsome — gone from the lineup that opened the Orange Bowl.

The Tar Heels lost a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and 33 total touchdowns on the season in the form of superb running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Both opted out of participating in the bowl game to turn their attention toward preparing for the NFL Draft.

Chandler compiled 2,046 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry, 465 receiving yards on 10.1 yards per catch, and 780 yards on kickoff returns during his Tennessee career. He scored 17 total touchdowns with the Volunteers, 13 rushing, three receiving and one by kickoff return.

He entered the NCAA transfer portal last week. North Carolina running backs coach Robert Gillespie spent five years as an assistant on the Tennessee staff and was Chandler’s position coach for his freshman season in 2017.

“We have some scholarships available and we’ll continue to look at the portal to see if there are some needs that we might need to fill over the next week or two,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said last week, on the subject of the transfer market.

North Carolina will have running back returnees in British Brooks, Josh Henderson, D.J. Jones and Elijah Green next season, none of them proven commodities in college. They have been reserves who have plugged in sparingly on offense, as Carter and Williams shouldered nearly all of the rushing workload.

The speedy senior Carter produced for 1,245 rushing yards and nine touchdowns this past season, with his average of 7.98 yards per carry eclipsing Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice’s school record of 7.2 yards per carry set 74 years ago in 1946.

He wrapped up his college career with 3,404 rushing yards, fourth all-time in school history behind only Amos Lawrence, Mike Voight and Leon Johnson. Carter scored 22 career rushing touchdowns. He added 82 catches for 656 receiving yards across the last four seasons.

The punishing junior Williams ran for 1,140 yards on 157 attempts this past season, a healthy average of 7.3 yards per carry, and piled up 19 touchdowns on the ground. He finished his three-year college career with 2,297 rushing yards, the 14th-highest total in North Carolina program history.