UNC football hires veteran SEC assistant as special teams analyst

The UNC football program has hired Mississippi State's special teams coordinator, Eric Mele, as a special teams analyst.

Duke v North Carolina
Duke v North Carolina / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

The UNC football program continued retooling for the 2024 season when it hired Eric Mele as a special teams analyst. According to Inside Carolina, Mele will work alongside third-year special teams coordinator Larry Porter.

As disappointing as the UNC football program's defense was in 2023, the special teams left almost as much to be desired even after injuries to starting kicker Ryan Coe and starting punter made a shambles of the depth chart. The Tar Heels special teams ranked 74th in FBS. They finished 13th in the ACC in kickoffs and 14th in punting; numerous blocked punts dragged down the latter ranking. They finished below the top 70 nationally in average kick yardage and punt return yardage.

Mele spent a decade on Mike Leach's staff at Washington State (2012-19) and Mississippi State (2020-22). He was Leach's special teams coordinator at Washington State from 2014 to 2017, turning Erik Powell into a Lou Groza award semifinalist in 2017. His special teams units in Pullman were known as ball-hawkers; in 2016, they scored two touchdowns on special teams, while his 2017 unit became the first since 2005 not to allow a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown.

Watch some of Mele's special teams handiwork at Washington State here.

Mele became the Cougars' running backs coach in 2018 and retained that role when Leach moved to Starkville in 2020. He became special teams coach in 2022 and built a unit that featured the nation's kick return yardage leader in Lideatrick Griffin. It also boasted the nation's punt return yardage leader among freshmen in Zavion Thomas. His special teams philosophy was best summed up in an interview with Gene's Page in 2023; he believes "special teams is all about momentum."

Mele has some coaching roots within the state of North Carolina; he served as special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Wingate University, east of Charlotte, from 2007 to 2011.

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