KNOXVILLE – Coach Butch Jones took less than a week to find a replacement for running backs coach Jay Graham, who departed for Florida State on Monday.
Jones and UT officially announced the hiring of West Virginia running backs coach Robert Gillespie on Friday night, ending a short five-day search to replace one of UT’s top assistants.
“We are very excited to welcome Robert and his family into the Tennessee family,” Jones said via a release on Friday night. “Coach Gillespie brings a vast knowledge of the SEC, having been part of it as both a player and 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 has served as the running backs coach at West Virginia (2011-12), Oklahoma State (2009-10) and South Carolina (2006-08). He oversaw a unit at West Virginia in 2012 that averaged 171.8 yards per game, almost a 50 yards-per-game improvement over the team’s 2011 output.
Tennessee fans might remember Gillespie better as a top running back at Florida. He ran for 1,854 yards over four seasons with the Gators from 1998-2001.
Gillespie was making approximately $300,000 per year at West Virginia. Graham was the second-lowest paid coach on UT’s staff at $260,000 per year. Graham will also owe UT approximately one third of his salary as a buyout payment for breaking contract.
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga