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WVU football: Holgorsen loses another assistant

MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia starts spring football March 10. Dana Holgorsen started looking for a running backs coach Friday night so that he and the Mountaineers can have a full staff for the start of drills.

Robert Gillespie, who followed Holgorsen from Oklahoma State to WVU in 2011 and was one of only two original assistants left on Holgorsen's staff, accepted the running backs coach job at the University of Tennessee.

"I want to welcome Robert Gillespie & his family to the Tennessee Football Family! Coach Gillespie will be joining our staff as the RB coach!" Volunteers Coach Butch Jones said on Twitter.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is the last of the four coaches Holgorsen hired before his first season and the nine assistants on the staff that year that remains.

Gillespie's return to the Southeastern Conference, where he played running back for Florida and coached the position at South Carolina, makes him the fifth assistant to leave the team during the offseason and the third to do so on his own.

Eight days before Gillespie left, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh took the same job at Oklahoma. Before him, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital moved to coach Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M.

Holgorsen previously fired cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts and special teams coach Steve Dunlap, though Dunlap is still working for WVU in an alternate capacity and is expected to accept a permanent position soon.

Stanford offensive tackles/tight ends coach Ron Crook, a Parkersburg native, replaced Bedenbaugh and Holgorsen moved Dawson from receivers coach to quarterbacks coach to address Spavital's exit. Lonnie Galloway was then hired away from Wake forest to return to WVU to coach receivers.

Former East Carolina defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell was hired as cornerbacks coach and Tony Gibson left Arizona to return to WVU to coach safeties. That allowed Joe DeForest, who was the safeties coach and defensive coordinator, to move to special teams coordinator while linebackers coach Keith Patterson took over the defense.

In each case, Holgorsen has moved quickly to close an opening and he'll have to do so again.

"Hail West Virginia!!!" Holgorsen countered on Twitter.

Gillespie, from Hattiesburg, Miss., played four seasons for Steve Spurrier and the Gators from 1998-2001 and finished with 1,854 yards rushing and 96 receptions for 1,091 yards. Gillespie was also team captain as a senior, when Florida finished No. 3 with a 10-2 record.

After a brief pro career, he rejoined Spurrier as a graduate assistant at South Carolina in 2005 and was the running backs coach there from 2006-08. He then coached the position at Oklahoma State in 2009-10 and worked the second season for Holgorsen when he was the offensive coordinator.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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