MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The University of Tennessee and Vols head coach Butch Jones confirmed Friday night the hiring of West Virginia running backs coach Robert Gillespie.
With WVU less than two weeks removed from the start of spring practice, Gillespie becomes the fifth staff change this offseason.
A former Florida Gators running back with strong recruiting ties throughout Florida and the Southeast, the 33-year-old Gillespie has been at WVU for two seasons. He previously coached for two seasons at Oklahoma State and three seasons at South Carolina.
Gillespie reportedly interviewed Thursday at Tennessee, where Jones was seeking to replace Jay Graham, who left for Florida State. WVU recently bumped up Gillespie’s salary to $300,000, a $50,000 increase over 2011.
Along with his recruiting success, Gillespie made an impact as a position coach. In 2011, he tutored Dustin Garrison during a standout freshman season, and Gillespie helped sophomore Andrew Buie emerge as a dual-threat tailback last season.
Dana Holgorsen fired cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts after the regular-season finale and then fired special teams coordinator/outside linebackers coach Steve Dunlap on Jan. 5. (Dunlap apparently has accepted a non-coaching role within the athletic department.)
Then came a spate of assistants leaving for more prestigious programs: Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital headed to Texas A&M to work with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh departed for Oklahoma, and now Gillespie is bound for Tennessee.
Holgorsen previously backfilled those vacancies by hiring Brian Mitchell (cornerbacks), Tony Gibson (safeties), Lonnie Galloway (receivers) and Ron Crook (offensive line).