Breaking down Alabama's coaching staff: Robert Gillespie
Over the next few days, BamaInsider will provide a breakdown of the Alabama coaching staff. Today, we continue the series with Robert Gillespie who will be entering his first season as the Crimson Tide’s running backs coach.
Click the video above for a breakdown of Gillespie. Below are five things to know about the Tide assistant.
He built a two-headed beast last season
Fourteen running backs eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in college football last season. Two of them came from Gillespie’s unit at North Carolina. Michael Carter led the ACC and ranked No. 4 in the nation with 1,245 rushing yards while his teammate, Javonte Williams, ranked No. 6 in the nation with 1,140 yards. North Carolina was the only team with two 1,000-yard rushers last season, a statistic made more impressive by the fact they only played in 11 games apiece.
Williams finished the season tied for third nationally with 19 rushing touchdowns while Carter found the end zone nine times on the ground. The duo also contributed in the passing game as Williams pulled in 25 receptions for 305 yards and three touchdowns while Carter recorded 25 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Both backs were selected in this year’s NFL Draft as the Denver Broncos picked Williams in the second round with the No. 35 overall pick while the New York Jets took Carter in the fourth round with the No. 107 overall pick.
North Carolina ranked No. 11 in the nation averaging 235.83 yards per game on the ground last season. The Tar Heels averaged an ACC-best 5.75 yards per carry which ranked sixth nationally.
He’s produced 12 NFL backs
Now that Carter and Williams have moved on to the next level, Gillespie has produced a whopping 12 NFL running backs over the course of his 17-year coaching career. The crown jewel of that bunch is four-time Pro Bowler Alvin Kamara, who played under the running backs coach at Tennessee from 2015-16 after transferring from Alabama.
Williams’ second-round selection this year is the highest a Gillespie protégé has been picked in the NFL Draft. Kamara was selected by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 67 overall pick in the third round of the 2017 draft. Interestingly enough, Jalen Hurd, who also played under Gillespie at Tennessee, was selected by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 67 overall two years later.
He can recruit
Along with producing talent, Gillespie is one of the best in the nation at bringing it in. The first-year assistant has already been one of Alabama’s best recruiters this class, helping the Tide land four-star backs Emmanuel Henderson and Le’Veon Moss.
Recruiting success is nothing new for Gillespie, who helped Tennessee land Kamara as a transfer while serving as the primary recruiter for Hurd, who ranked as a five-star recruit in the 2014 class. He also helped the Volunteers land five-star defensive end Jonathan Kongbo, who was the top-rated JUCO player in the 2016 class.
Gillespie, a Hattiesburg, Miss. native, has experience recruiting in Atlanta, the Carolinas and Florida. Alabama will lean on him heavily to recruit central and south Florida.
He gave Saban fits as a player
Nick Saban posted a 5-0 record over Tennessee during Robert Gillespie’s five seasons as the Volunteers’ running backs coach from 2013-17. However, the assistant got the better of his current head coach during his playing days.
Gillespie played running back at Florida under Steve Spurrier from 1998-2001, recording 1,854 career rushing yards while pulling in 96 career receptions for 1,091 yards through the air. He was a team captain during his senior season when he led the Gators to a No. 3 finish, including a victory over Maryland in the Orange Bowl.
He was also a thorn in the side of Saban's LSU teams in 2000 and 2001.
While Saban got the better of Gillespie in their meetings as coaches, the assistant was 2-0 as a player against his current boss. Gillespie’s first game against Saban came in 2000 when he accounted for 189 all-purpose yards during a 41-9 victory over LSU. Things didn’t get much better for the head coach the following year as Gillespie gashed his Tigers for 140 all-purpose yards as Florida blew out LSU 44-15 inside Tiger Stadium.
He is a World Bowl champion
Following his time at Florida, Gillespie went to become an undrafted free agent and was signed by Spurrier’s Washington Redskins in 2002. After spending a season in the NFL, he joined the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe the next year.
Gillespie’s lone season in Germany was a success as he helped lead the Galaxy to its third title with a 35-16 victory over Rhein Fire in World Bowl XI. He carried the ball five times for 88 yards including a 29-yard touchdown in the win.