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UNC Announces Two Additional Football Hires

Streeter Lecka

Via UNC press release:

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Keith Heckendorf and Larry Porter have been hired as the newest members of the North Carolina football coaching staff, head coach Larry Fedora announced Monday. Heckendorf, who was previously at Carolina as a player development assistant, will be the new quarterbacks coach, while Porter, who was most recently at Texas, will be UNC’s new running backs coach.

Heckendorf returns to Chapel Hill after a brief stint as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas State. The Mosinee, Wis., native spent three seasons at UNC from 2011-13 and was part of three consecutive winning campaigns, including an ACC Coastal Division title in 2012 and a win in the 2013 Belk Bowl. Prior to his first tenure at Carolina, Heckendorf spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Western Carolina. He also spent three seasons at Nebraska that included trips to the 2005 Alamo Bowl and 2007 Cotton Bowl.

"We are excited to bring Keith back to Chapel Hill," said Fedora. "He’s been a key member of this program since we got here and he already has a great knowledge of our system as well as familiarity with our personnel. He is another young, energetic coach who will be a great asset to our program both as a coach and as a recruiter."

Heckendorf had a standout career as a quarterback at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minn., from 2000-03. He was a two-time finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is given annually to the top player in NCAA Division II football, finishing second and third in the voting. He was also a consensus American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America pick each season as a four-year starter. He earned his bachelor’s degree in elective studies from St. Cloud State University in 2004, and he is on course to complete his master’s in education administration this spring from the University of Nebraska.  He is married to the former Ms. Mia Mauer of Saint Paul, Minn.

"I can’t thank Coach Fedora enough for the opportunity to rejoin his staff here at Carolina," Heckendorf said. "I look forward to building on the relationships I’ve made with the coaches and players in this outstanding program."

Porter comes to Carolina after one season as the running backs coach at Texas. Prior to his time in Austin, Porter spent one year at Arizona State as the running backs coach after two seasons as the head coach at his alma mater Memphis. The native of Jackson, Miss., also has stops at Tennessee-Martin, Arkansas State, Oklahoma State and LSU, where he was the assistant head coach and running backs coach of the Tiger team that won the 2008 BCS National Championship game.

"Larry is a coach who I’ve admired for a long time," Fedora said. "He has worked at some of the most successful programs in the country and has won at the highest level in our sport. Larry is not only an outstanding coach but he is a tireless recruiter who will help us continue to build a championship team in Chapel Hill."

In his 16 years of college coaching, Porter has mentored a number of future NFL players, including Dontari Poe, Jacob Hester, Joseph Addai, Quinn Johnson, Trindon Holliday and Tatum Bell. He has been part of 10 bowl teams since 2002, including a pair of BCS bowls (2007 Sugar, 2008 BCS Championship). Porter lettered four years at Memphis and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. Porter and his wife, Sharmane, have three children – Brandon, Omari and Olivia.

"I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Coach Fedora and his staff here at Carolina," Porter said. "He is someone in the coaching world who I’ve always respected and I look forward to getting to work in this system and adding to the success that they have had already."

Both Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer expressed excitement on Twitter at the news last week Heckendorf would be returning to Chapel Hill. It is clear he is very popular with the offensive players which probably gave him an edge. That and the fact he wasn't necessarily looking for the next offensive coordinator job to open up somewhere which was apparently an issue with other candidates. Heckendorf is also an example of how the football assistant coaching carousel can be really weird. Heckendorf left UNC for Arkansas State for a full pay coaching position there versus being a graduate assistant at UNC. At the time of his departure UNC didn't have an opening for him. Since then with Walt Bell also going to Arkansas State and Randy Jordan heading to the Washington Redskins plus the shake out of responsibilities with Seth Littrell coming on as offensive coordinator, a position opened up. Heckendorf took the opportunity to return to Chapel Hill despite only being at Arkansas State for a couple of months.

The hiring of Porter is actually the bigger get. Not only has Porter been a running backs coach at places like LSU and Texas, he was twice named National Recruiter of the Year by in 2007 and 2009. While his coaching experience is certainly important, Porter might be far more valuable for what he brings to the table as a recruiter. Given his wide range of experience at various major college football jobs Porter should have plenty of connections that could serve to bolster UNC's recruiting.

Staff turnover at any school is inevitable and in this case it would appear that Larry Fedora has either adequately replaced or even upgrade the opened positions on his staff.