West Virginia assistant coach Robert Gillespie has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Jay Graham as Tennessee’s new running backs coach, a source familiar with the search told the News Sentinel today.
The source requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
Gillespie, a former Florida running back, is one of at least two candidates who interviewed this week with UT coach Butch Jones.
Gillespie, 33, was running backs coach at South Carolina from 2006-08. He spent two years at Oklahoma State (2009-10) before following Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia when he was hired to be the Mountaineers head-coach-in-waiting after the 2010 season. Holgorsen assumed full head coaching duties in June 2011.
A native of Hattiesburg, Miss., Gillespie played four seasons for coach Steve Spurrier and the 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.
After a brief professional career, he completed his degree at Florida in 2005 and then began working for Spurrier at South Carolina as a graduate assistant.
Gillespie and Graham have an unlikely connection. When Gillespie left South Carolina, Spurrier hired Graham to replace him. Now Gillespie appears to be on the verge of replacing Graham at UT.
Gillespie reportedly made $300,000 annually at West Virginia.
Graham was slated to make $260,000 at Tennessee. Florida State has yet to confirm Graham’s hiring or his role on the team.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.