Vols hire Gillespie to coach RBs

Tennessee’s former running backs coach was a good SEC tailback.

New UT running backs coach Robert Gillespie

So was the Vols’ new running backs coach.

West Virginia’s Robert Gillespie, a well-known tailback under Steve Spurrier at Florida from 1998-2001, has been hired to coach UT’s running backs, a program source told govols247 on Friday night.

UT sports information officially confirmed the news Friday night, as well.

Jones and Gillespie weren't made available for comment, but UT released a quote from the head coach.

"We are very excited to welcome Robert and his family into the Tennessee family," Jones' statement, according to the release. "Coach Gillespie brings a vast knowledge of the SEC, having been a part of it both as a player and as a coach. Robert is a high-energy coach who will get the most out of his players, and he also has a great reputation in the coaching profession as a relentless recruiter."

Gillespie, 33, has coached the Mountaineers’ running backs since 2011. He coached the running backs at Oklahoma State from 2009-10 and coached the running backs at South Carolina under Spurrier from 2006-08. He also worked with the Gamecocks as a graduate assistant in 2005.

A Hattiesburg, Miss., native, Gillespie was a four-year letterwinner and multi-year starter at Florida from 1998-2001. He was a captain of the 2001 team that went 11-2 but fell short of the SEC and national championship games because of a 34-32 loss to Tennessee in Gainesville.

Gillespie, who rushed for 1,854 yards and 1,091 more yards on 96 catches for the Gators, signed with the NFL’s Washington Redskins in 2002 and played for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe in 2003.

He went back to Gainesville after retiring as a player and completed his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science in 2005. He then moved to South Carolina as a graduate assistant, was promoted to full-time running backs coach the next season and spent four more years with the Gamecocks.

Gillespie then went to Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing offense in Gillespie’s first season with the program.

UT’s running backs coaching position became available Monday when Jay Graham — a former star tailback for the Vols — surprisingly left the program for a job under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Graham had been the only full-time assistant from Derek Dooley’s staff retained by new Vols head coach Butch Jones.

Gillespie’s name was quickly brought up when Jones made a list of possible replacements for Graham, and there were several reasons for that. Gillespie is young and energetic, has spent most of his life in The South and has played, coached and recruited in the SEC. He’s also coached at three programs that run similar offenses to the new system Jones is installing at UT.

Contact Wes Rucker at wesrucker247@gmail.com, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247

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