Robert Gillespie hired as Tennessee's new running backs coach

Ex-Florida standout was assistant at West Virginia

Robert Gillespie

Robert Gillespie

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West Virginia assistant Robert Gillespie has been hired as Tennessee’s new running backs coach, ending a rapid search to replace Jay Graham, who left for Florida State on Monday.

UT coach Butch Jones confirmed the news on Twitter on Friday night. Gillespie will be in place when the Vols start spring practice a week from today.

A former Florida running back, Gillespie was running backs coach at South Carolina (2006-08) and Oklahoma State (2009-10) before joining Dana Holgorsen’s staff at West Virginia after the 2010 season.

A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Gillespie was a four-year letterwinner for the Steve Spurrier-led Gators, rushing for 1,854 yards and catching 96 passes for 1,091 receiving yards. He was team captain as a senior in 2001, helping lead Florida to a 10-2 record and No. 3 ranking.

It was a stunning loss to Tennessee in the final game of the 2001 regular season that kept the Gators from the SEC title game and a shot at the national title.

After a brief professional career, Gillespie completed his degree at Florida in 2005 and then began working for Spurrier at South Carolina as a graduate assistant.

Gillespie and Graham share an unlikely connection. When Gillespie left South Carolina, Spurrier hired Graham to replace him. Now Gillespie has replaced Graham at UT.

“We are very excited to welcome Robert and his family into the Tennessee family,” Jones said in a school 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 reportedly made $300,000 annually at West Virginia. UT did release his salary or contract details. Graham was slated to make $260,000 at Tennessee. Florida State has yet to confirm Graham’s hiring.

Gillespie was one of three candidates who are known to have interviewed for the job. The News Sentinel reported that former Chicago Bears assistant Tim Spencer interviewed earlier this week. On Friday, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed to the Macon Telegraph that longtime Bulldogs assistant Tony Ball had also interviewed with Jones.

Gillespie is the fifth assistant coach to leave the West Virginia staff since the end of the 2012 season.

Only weeks after arriving at West Virginia in 2011, Gillespie was pursued by new Florida coach Will Muschamp, but he declined to return to his alma mater out of loyalty to Holgorsen.

“I’m a man of my word,” Gillespie told the Times West Virginian. “I gave him my word that I’d come here and help him build this program.”

Gillespie said he wouldn’t let emotion guide his career decisions.

“I’m a football coach. This isn’t a beauty pageant,” he said. “I want to be around guys I enjoy being with, guys who can help me grow, guys where I have a voice and some input in the offense. That’s what I based my decision on.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

ROBERT GILLESPIE

Born: Nov. 2, 1979 (33 years old)

Hometown: Hattiesburg, Miss.

High school: Hattiesburg High

College: Florida, 2005, bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Career track: South Carolina (2005-2008); Oklahoma State (2009-2010); West Virginia (2011-2012); Tennessee (2013)

Family: Wife Crystal; daughter Nola (2) and son Wynston (10 months).

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Comments » 218

USNVOL writes:

Great Hire

AHOUSE writes:

Probably more to this story than we will know any time soon. Jay Graham not announce yet at fl St. Bet we are better as a result.

thevoice writes:

He won't be around long before someone else snatches him up, but nonetheless, I like this hire.

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

All that the haters will notice is that he played RB at Florida...

But considering the pinch Graham put UT in with just over a week until the first practice...great hire. Impressive resume.

Oh, and most importantly...he wants to be here!

Go VOLS!

FanNotSheep writes:

Who?

Why?

Vols have an Alabama/Florida State athletics director, now they've got a Gator on the coaching staff. Oh well, if you can no longer beat 'em, hire 'em -- I guess.

Pearlville writes:

"For more background on Spencer, including his role in the famous UT-Florida game in 2011, read Evan Woodbery's blog"

What?????

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

LOL...didn't even take one whole minute.

I rest my case...SMH

CoverOrange writes:

At $260k, Graham may have been the lowest paid on the staff but am I wrong when I remember that that is more than most of Fulmer's assts?

wigmeister writes:

Make us proud! Welcome to Orange Nation!

olecountryboy writes:

The dude can flat out recruit. Even though the 7 recruits he snared from Fl was all 3 stars. Five of them was within 1 point of being 4 stars. He recruited Buie to WV also. Kendall Hunter to Okie St. and knows the spread. I think this is a great hire. Hope he does well with our RB's

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to THEKIDWISCONSIN:

All that the haters will notice is that he played RB at Florida...

But considering the pinch Graham put UT in with just over a week until the first practice...great hire. Impressive resume.

Oh, and most importantly...he wants to be here!

Go VOLS!

I'd say there are 300,000 reasons he is here. UT tradition ain't one of them.

People who blame Graham for leaving are crazy. He was in a tough spot as the only guy on the staff who even knew how to pronounce Vol. Geez, can you imagine the idiots on the coaching staff from Michigan by way of Cincinnati apparently thought Tennessee's mascot was a small rodent that lives underground?

Enki_Amenra writes:

I agree AHOUSE... I do not recall it being standard procedure to delay the announcement of a hiring, especially an assistant/position coach.

I know the salary is not always available right away, but a delay in the hiring confirmation? Almost seems as if they are not squared away on the contract or Coach Graham is having some other issues we are unaware of.

I know a lot of people were disappointed in Graham's departure, but it may turn out to be a good direction to go.

The new UTK running backs Coach is respected on, at least, the same level as Coach Graham - with the edge of Tennessee's fan favor going to Graham as a former Volunteer's star.

Coach Gillespie, Welcome to Rocky Top!

Go Vols!!!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Good hire. Kid can recruit the state of Florida...like, for real.

Enki_Amenra writes:

in response to Pearlville:

"For more background on Spencer, including his role in the famous UT-Florida game in 2011, read Evan Woodbery's blog"

What?????

I guess that is meant for those who want to know more about the coaches we DIDN'T hire!

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Good hire. Kid can recruit the state of Florida...like, for real.

That's good and all, but do you really think Tennessee is going to sign many Florida high school players that Florida, FSU, Miami or Alabama want?

I hope for the best, and this guy may be sliced bread all over again. But I am not kneeling at the altar of Jones quite yet. No more than Dooley or Kiffin. Prove something first is what I say.

txvolsfan writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

I'd say there are 300,000 reasons he is here. UT tradition ain't one of them.

People who blame Graham for leaving are crazy. He was in a tough spot as the only guy on the staff who even knew how to pronounce Vol. Geez, can you imagine the idiots on the coaching staff from Michigan by way of Cincinnati apparently thought Tennessee's mascot was a small rodent that lives underground?

Your an idiot not a TRUE FAN!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

olecountryboy writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Good hire. Kid can recruit the state of Florida...like, for real.

Make a mistake of his recruiting in a earlier post. Gillespie got 10 commitments from fl this year. Got a DT, 3 WR's, 2 DE's, 2 RB's, 1 Ath, and a CB. All from Florida. Also was named 2012 Rivals RECRUITER of the year.

jt45 writes:

Glad to see CBJ wasted no time getting another RB coach in place after Grahams departure. I hope he does well here and look forward seeing the results on the field.

Go Vols.

Enki_Amenra writes:

in response to olecountryboy:

Make a mistake of his recruiting in a earlier post. Gillespie got 10 commitments from fl this year. Got a DT, 3 WR's, 2 DE's, 2 RB's, 1 Ath, and a CB. All from Florida. Also was named 2012 Rivals RECRUITER of the year.

BINGO!!!

We Have A Ringer!!!

Go Vols!!

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

I'd say there are 300,000 reasons he is here. UT tradition ain't one of them.

People who blame Graham for leaving are crazy. He was in a tough spot as the only guy on the staff who even knew how to pronounce Vol. Geez, can you imagine the idiots on the coaching staff from Michigan by way of Cincinnati apparently thought Tennessee's mascot was a small rodent that lives underground?

Listen...if you want to grumble about this you're going to be in the minority.

If there's more to it and Graham isn't a coward who didn't want to work as hard as the rest of the staff from THE NORTH (yep, we're everywhere...ohhhh) then Graham better come out and explain...

Until then (and really, even after then) I'm going to support the coaches that want to be at UT.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

I'd say there are 300,000 reasons he is here. UT tradition ain't one of them.

People who blame Graham for leaving are crazy. He was in a tough spot as the only guy on the staff who even knew how to pronounce Vol. Geez, can you imagine the idiots on the coaching staff from Michigan by way of Cincinnati apparently thought Tennessee's mascot was a small rodent that lives underground?

Dude, he made the same coin at WVU..So, yes tradition and the SEC probably were the reasons he took the UT gig..

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

Your an idiot not a TRUE FAN!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

Well you don't know me and you don't know an idiot from your rear end. But my point, which you obviously missed, is that a former Florida football player is not likely a Vol fan now. He is a professional and the money and a chance to further his career are why he is here.

Perhaps you are not aware that several of Jones' assistants though Vol was pronounced vole, which in case you are the idiot, is a small rodent in the same family as a mole.

I have followed UT football -- and pulled for them win or lose -- since Doug Dickey (another former Gator) was head coach, so you obviously don't even understand the concept of a true fan.

Oh yeah, it's you're, not your, but I guess maybe it's different in Texas?

oldster writes:

From the story that Jimmy Hyams told about why Graham left UT, it sounded like he was a little baby or prima donna. If Jimmy is right, and I heard him right, then UT is better off without him.

Pearlville writes:

in response to Enki_Amenra:

I guess that is meant for those who want to know more about the coaches we DIDN'T hire!

Just shows you how much KNS sports writer copy and paste their own info.

This must have been part of an old RB position hire story and it somehow wasn't deleted as part of the actual RB position hire, Gillespie story.

Simple, honest mistake. However, I'm a middle school teacher and this wouldn't be acceptable at that level. Ha!

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to THEKIDWISCONSIN:

Listen...if you want to grumble about this you're going to be in the minority.

If there's more to it and Graham isn't a coward who didn't want to work as hard as the rest of the staff from THE NORTH (yep, we're everywhere...ohhhh) then Graham better come out and explain...

Until then (and really, even after then) I'm going to support the coaches that want to be at UT.

OK, once more and slowly: I don't follow the coming and going of assistant coaches and the minutia of recruiting. So I was not aware that this guy is apparently the next Rodney Garner, but I don't understand why anyone thinks a former UF football player is bleeding Tennessee orange.

The SEC? Sure, and a good career move if Jones can coach. I am not grumbling, just not naive enough enough to think a Florida guy has loyalty to Rocky Top, any more than Jay Graham always dreamed of being a Seminole.

I'd love for you to call Jay Graham a coward to his face. I guarantee he would knock you all the way back up which ever Interstate brought you here.

Enki_Amenra writes:

in response to Pearlville:

Just shows you how much KNS sports writer copy and paste their own info.

This must have been part of an old RB position hire story and it somehow wasn't deleted as part of the actual RB position hire, Gillespie story.

Simple, honest mistake. However, I'm a middle school teacher and this wouldn't be acceptable at that level. Ha!

If you're teaching middle school, you are already providing knowledge on a higher level than what the media (local and national) use as a publishing guide... the ticker bar on the bottom of CNN/Fox/MSNBC, etc., is written on or below a 5th grade level and the scroll speed is also slowed way down... same thing for most national media, including Gannett - but not sure if KNS is still owned by them or not...

(I'm glad they do this, I'd never be able to understand anything on a 6th grade level or above!)

Go Vols!!!

LiveFaith writes:

Love the hire. This kind of recruiter may get us into the fertile FL recruiting grounds.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to oldster:

From the story that Jimmy Hyams told about why Graham left UT, it sounded like he was a little baby or prima donna. If Jimmy is right, and I heard him right, then UT is better off without him.

I used to think Hyams was a good guy but I've since begun to realize he has become a grumpy old man with no flexibility and no sense of humor. If you want to take everything he says as gospel go ahead, but I think if I'd been Jay Graham I would have felt like an outsider on a staff that besides me had always worked together. And as the only holdover, he would have possibly faced resentment just because he would be a fan favorite.

Jay was a tough son of a gun who had a decent run in the NFL, and I thought he coached the running backs very well and recruited well given Dooley's shaky situation at the time.

MR_VOL writes:

Great Hire! Coach Jones continues to impress!

I, personally, cannot see why or how any true VOL fan can speak negatively about Coach Jones or anyone on his staff to this point. I firmly believe Coach Jones has handled every situation in a near-perfect manner. I can barely wait for the season to begin!!

Welcome Coach Gillespie!

8inarow writes:

As he came from TitleTown, he is more than qualified to coach at UT.

THEKIDWISCONSIN writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

OK, once more and slowly: I don't follow the coming and going of assistant coaches and the minutia of recruiting. So I was not aware that this guy is apparently the next Rodney Garner, but I don't understand why anyone thinks a former UF football player is bleeding Tennessee orange.

The SEC? Sure, and a good career move if Jones can coach. I am not grumbling, just not naive enough enough to think a Florida guy has loyalty to Rocky Top, any more than Jay Graham always dreamed of being a Seminole.

I'd love for you to call Jay Graham a coward to his face. I guarantee he would knock you all the way back up which ever Interstate brought you here.

You wanna be "that guy"...knock yourself out.

As for myself and many others...we're happy Dooley is gone someone's in there that at least initially gives the impression that he gives a rats arse about tradition & giving former players an open door (which Graham appears to have slammed back in his face).

We tried the former player thing with Chuck Smith, Tee & now Graham...not working out so great is it?

If it takes hiring a former Gator (via SC, OKST & WVU) to help get this team moving forward...so what?

Like I said...believe what you want. Until Graham comes out and explains bailing on UT a week before practice starts I'll believe he realized Coach Jones asks a bit more from his coaches than Dooley did.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to Enki_Amenra:

If you're teaching middle school, you are already providing knowledge on a higher level than what the media (local and national) use as a publishing guide... the ticker bar on the bottom of CNN/Fox/MSNBC, etc., is written on or below a 5th grade level and the scroll speed is also slowed way down... same thing for most national media, including Gannett - but not sure if KNS is still owned by them or not...

(I'm glad they do this, I'd never be able to understand anything on a 6th grade level or above!)

Go Vols!!!

KNS is Scripps, always has been. It's a very tough business these days. So don't be too hard on them. They're mostly good people trying to do more with less. I just hope they can hang in there and we don't join the ranks of Birmingham, Mobile and New Orleans as cities without a daily printed newspaper.

orange_eVOLution writes:

Gillespie was a pain in our butt. Now he can help us be a pain in someone else's...

GO VOLS!!

Pearlville writes:

in response to Enki_Amenra:

If you're teaching middle school, you are already providing knowledge on a higher level than what the media (local and national) use as a publishing guide... the ticker bar on the bottom of CNN/Fox/MSNBC, etc., is written on or below a 5th grade level and the scroll speed is also slowed way down... same thing for most national media, including Gannett - but not sure if KNS is still owned by them or not...

(I'm glad they do this, I'd never be able to understand anything on a 6th grade level or above!)

Go Vols!!!

Yeah, I guess. Unfortunately, our fan base, and maybe our society, in general, is functioning on a fairly remedial level.

Wonder if KNS will edit their mistake by the morning.

Still like the hire, considering the circumstances. Seems like Coach Gillespie has many of the same positives/experiences/qualities that Coach Graham had. At the very best, it's a wash. But, eh, prob. not.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to THEKIDWISCONSIN:

You wanna be "that guy"...knock yourself out.

As for myself and many others...we're happy Dooley is gone someone's in there that at least initially gives the impression that he gives a rats arse about tradition & giving former players an open door (which Graham appears to have slammed back in his face).

We tried the former player thing with Chuck Smith, Tee & now Graham...not working out so great is it?

If it takes hiring a former Gator (via SC, OKST & WVU) to help get this team moving forward...so what?

Like I said...believe what you want. Until Graham comes out and explains bailing on UT a week before practice starts I'll believe he realized Coach Jones asks a bit more from his coaches than Dooley did.

I think you're that guy -- that guy who believes he is superior to the poor backwards Tennessee folk. But I might have you all wrong. I still say you would not call Graham a coward to his face. You don't know why he left any more than I do.

Chuck, Tee and Jay all did good work when they were here. USC and FSU are right now better jobs than UT. When you consider how difficult it will be to gain ground on SEC schools who are riding high AND have tons of talent in their home state you know the Vols are in a tough spot. I hope Jones is the next great coach. But I will reserve judgement.

Graham doesn't owe anyone an explanation. I've been an outsider and know how it feels. I've felt put down for being from East Tennessee and from the South.

And I wait until I know something before I call someone a coward, because I would not be willing to run into an NFL defense myself. But of course, I'm just an old hillbilly redneck who don't know nothing.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to 8inarow:

As he came from TitleTown, he is more than qualified to coach at UT.

I didn't read his complete resume', but if he has ties to Green Bay that would certainly qualify him to coach in the SEC.

rb4346 writes:

in response to THEKIDWISCONSIN:

All that the haters will notice is that he played RB at Florida...

But considering the pinch Graham put UT in with just over a week until the first practice...great hire. Impressive resume.

Oh, and most importantly...he wants to be here!

Go VOLS!

Agree, great hire and hopefully can recruit the type of players that Graham was unable to recruit. !!!GBO!!!

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Who?

Why?

Vols have an Alabama/Florida State athletics director, now they've got a Gator on the coaching staff. Oh well, if you can no longer beat 'em, hire 'em -- I guess.

I'll try and keep it simple.
Spurrier was once at Florida. Muschamp was once at Texas. Saban was once at LSU. Graham was once at SC. Petrino was once at Arkansas.

I just named some SEC people, and I would bet over the last 3 years the SEC teams combined have had over 40 changes in HC or ASST coaches, if not more. That's just 1 conference.

Coaches move, your point is?

cloudodust writes:

A sign hangs in my hovel which reads, 'I chose the road less traveled and now I don't know where the he11 I am...' Mr Gillespie, in case you've lost your bearing, you're now Atop Rocky. Welcome. Thanks for coming...

Theo writes:

in response to 8inarow:

As he came from TitleTown, he is more than qualified to coach at UT.

Green Bay? I thought the article said he was from Mississippi.

rb4346 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

I used to think Hyams was a good guy but I've since begun to realize he has become a grumpy old man with no flexibility and no sense of humor. If you want to take everything he says as gospel go ahead, but I think if I'd been Jay Graham I would have felt like an outsider on a staff that besides me had always worked together. And as the only holdover, he would have possibly faced resentment just because he would be a fan favorite.

Jay was a tough son of a gun who had a decent run in the NFL, and I thought he coached the running backs very well and recruited well given Dooley's shaky situation at the time.

I believe CBJ treated Jay as well as the other coaches and the way he runs the show I think any resentment would be nipped in the bud by CBJ before it got started. I personally wish Coach Graham would make a statement so we would know the truth instead of hearing everyone's opinion. I think Dave Hart made a good hire in CBJ and I will back him all the way. I think CBJ made a great hire also. GBO

chipmurphy461 writes:

At this point in time, I agree with the majority;there's something more to the story of Jay Graham's departure than we are hearing...be it good or bad. It also sounds like we got the better end of the deal.

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Who?

Why?

Vols have an Alabama/Florida State athletics director, now they've got a Gator on the coaching staff. Oh well, if you can no longer beat 'em, hire 'em -- I guess.

Life's not fair, deal with it. This new RB coach loves his alma matar like we all love our UT. He wants success and winning is the measuring stick. If he gets Tennessee winning, he will probably get a new job somewhere else, thats a coaches life, So he knows what has to be done and I suspect he will give 100% for UT even when the 3rd week of September rolls around. Go Vols!

lstbodeanvol writes:

in response to 8inarow:

As he came from TitleTown, he is more than qualified to coach at UT.

title town ????? HE IS NOT FROM TUSCALOOSA HE WENT TO UFAG (UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA AT GAINESVILLE......GO VOLS !

davemanthevolfan writes:

If I had as much mind power as half of the people on this site I would go ahead and blow my brains out. Go to your doctor and get some meds.

Overseas_VolFan writes:

From Mississippi, played at Florida, worked at Oklahoma, South Carolina, and west Virginia...!! This man has roots every where and he seems to be wanted by every coach...Good hire.

Snapshot writes:

in response to 8inarow:

As he came from TitleTown, he is more than qualified to coach at UT.

No, he didn't come from Green Bay, I mean, that is the REAL titletown, right? Read the article stupid, he is from Miss.

OwensboroVol writes:

The best thing, but not the only good thing, I see about Coach Gillespie is He knows what it takes to win. Say what you want about Spurrier, but He knows how to win too. This past season I thought We had enough talent to have went at least 8-4. We lost several games because our Coaches, and as a result our Kids, did not know how to close out a game and win. When We get that kind of mentality into our Kids We will win and We will win some games We shouldn't have.

TheVolMan writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Well you don't know me and you don't know an idiot from your rear end. But my point, which you obviously missed, is that a former Florida football player is not likely a Vol fan now. He is a professional and the money and a chance to further his career are why he is here.

Perhaps you are not aware that several of Jones' assistants though Vol was pronounced vole, which in case you are the idiot, is a small rodent in the same family as a mole.

I have followed UT football -- and pulled for them win or lose -- since Doug Dickey (another former Gator) was head coach, so you obviously don't even understand the concept of a true fan.

Oh yeah, it's you're, not your, but I guess maybe it's different in Texas?

Exactly, right on the money. The illiterate txvolsfan can only be from Tex-Asss.

usafvol writes:

Seems to be a good hire. Here's a pretty good Bio on the guy. http://www.rockytoptalk.com/2013/3/1/...

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