In the aftermath of the departure of tight ends coach Tim Brewster to Florida last week, Carolina football fans lost their collective minds.
Brewster, long believed to be Mack Brown’s right hand man, leveraged an opportunity at Texas A&M under former employer Jimbo Fisher back in December. Brown was able to get him a raise to keep him in Chapel Hill, but let him walk when Brewster made it known he had a similar opportunity at Florida.
While it’s difficult to upgrade from an extremely highly-regarded recruiter (one who had a hand in Carolina’s signings of Desmond Evans, Clyde Pinder, and others in the 2020 cycle), its hard to argue that John Lilly isn’t one.
SOURCES: Former #Browns TE coach John Lilly is expected to become the new tight ends coach at #UNC. Before his time in the NFL, Lilly was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for a decade at FSU and also coached at UGA.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 12, 2020
Lilly, 51, brings a wealth of collegiate and NFL experience, and recruiting bona fide prospects to boot. Last seen as the Cleveland Browns tight ends coach in 2019, he spent a year on Tennessee’s staff as Associate Head Coach under Jeremy Pruitt in 2017. After the Georgia staff was let go in 2015, he coached the position for the Los Angeles Rams the following year. Before his recent nomadic wandering, he was a mainstay in Athens, GA and Tallahassee, FL.
Lilly coached tight ends and the punt team under Mark Richt from 2008-2015, bringing elite talents such as Arthur Lynch, Orson Charles, Aron White, and Charlotte native Jeb Blazevich to the position for the Dawgs. He spent 10 years at Florida State under Richt and Bobby Bowden before joining Richt in Athens.
Through friends whose time in Athens coincided with Lilly’s, I got the following messages this morning:
Former player: “John Lilly is the f***ing man.”
Former graduate assistant: “Wait, Lilly is going to UNC?! Daaaaamn, great hire!”
Lilly will likely take over Brewster’s role of “big fish hunter” in Chapel Hill, as he had a hand in securing the signatures of many 4 and-5-star players at Georgia.
What remains to be seen is what he’ll bring to the on-field product at North Carolina. His tight ends played a major role in Richt’s offense in Athens, averaging 37 catches for 493 yards in his last five years— incorporating four different starters in that time.
Carolina tight ends Garrett Walston (who actually committed to Lilly at Georgia initially), Carl Tucker, Jake Bargas, and Kamari Morales combined for just 18 catches, 154 yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2019. It’s rumored that the lack of tight end usage in the passing game was part of Brewster’s frustration, but peers wistfully at Sam Howell’s numbers I think the offense worked just fine without their extensive involvement.
Lilly will add another veteran voice to the coaching room, hopefully diversify the offense, and the Tar Heels won’t miss a beat.