Gillespie now wearing different shade of orange


Published: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 9:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 20, 2013 at 9:47 p.m.

Former Florida running back Robert Gillespie is not looking at his return to The Swamp with any extra nostalgia.

Hired as Tennessee's running backs coach last offseason, Gillespie was a UF team captain in 2001 who still ranks second all-time in school history in receptions (96) and receiving yards (1,091) by a running back. But he hasn't had a chance to talk to any former teammates about his return to Florida Field when the Vols face Florida today.

“We're so consumed watching and trying to figure out the best way to attack that defense,” Gillespie said. “I haven't had a lot of time to get on Facebook or Twitter or even sit down with my wife. It's one of those weeks where you don't have a lot of time to do anything outside of trying to get your players prepared and come up with a game plan.”

Gillespie credits his former head coach, Gator icon Steve Spurrier, as being most instrumental in his development. It was Spurrier who gave Gillespie his first break in coaching, hiring him as a graduate assistant at South Carolina in 2005. Gillespie was promoted to running backs coach at South Carolina (2006-08) before stints at Oklahoma State (2009-10) and West Virginia (2010-11).

“I learned the most from Coach Spurrier, just how he competes and the way he kind of patterns the game and sees the whole field,” Gillespie said. “So I was able to learn a lot from him as a player and, all of a sudden, being on the other side of it, at (South) Carolina I was able to see how and the rhyme and reason of everything he did.”

As a player during the heyday of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry, Gillespie has passed down the importance of the history of the matchup while preparing to face the top run defense in the SEC. Florida is allowing just 50 yards rushing per game.

“It's a big challenge,” Gillespie said. “We've talked to our guys, I kind of told them the history of this rivalry, the team that is able to run for the most yards has a very high tendency of winning this ballgame.

“We respect the way those guys, they do a really good job getting off the ball, they do a great job using their hands, they are physical … we just have to go out and match it. So we have to go out, get the tough yards, hopefully make some people miss and do a great job moving the chains.”

In his first year with Tennessee coach Butch Jones' staff, Gillespie said he's not looking too far ahead in terms of future goals in coaching.

“I've always been the kind of guy to keep my head down and focus on where I am and good things will happen to you,” Gillespie said. “I've been fortunate to be at a lot of good places and I'm at a great university with a lot of tradition.

“Coaching here, I don't think there's a better situation. I'm just focused on getting this place back to where it should be, helping my running backs become the best running backs they can be and making sure the top running backs in the country want to play for us here at Tennessee.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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