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Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Can Robert Gillespie lead the Vols south?

By Dave Hooker

Tennessee's latest coaching hire appears to be all about recruiting further south.

After losing former running backs coach Jay Graham to Florida State, the Volunteers announced over the weekend that Gillespie would replace Graham, a beloved former Vol. By outside accounts, Graham was often described as the perfect fit because he was well received in North Carolina and Tennessee -- two important areas for the Vols.

At first glance, Gillespie's recruiting focus has been more widespread lately. Before leaving West Virginia, Gillespie was heavily involved in four Mountaineer commitments for the 2013 class. One was from West Virginia, one was from Georgia, one was from Florida and the last was a junior college prospect from Kansas.

West Virginia won't be much help to Tennessee. The state already has competition for very few highly rated prospects. Georgia could help. The Vols have targeted the area for decades. With the amount of talent produced in Florida, that state can be fertile ground. Still, Gillespie, a former Florida Gators tailback, will have to best strong competition from Florida schools to get them to Knoxville.

Working the Kansas junior college circuit could be key for the Vols who will need immediate impact players on their roster, especially on the offensive line.

Gillespie could also be effective in Oklahoma and South Carolina, which are two of his past coaching stops. However, digging a bit further into Gillespie's background may prove a substantial shift in Tennessee's recruiting efforts. In 2012, he was the primary recruiter in 10 commitments to West Virginia from the state of Florida. Not bad.

Gillespie's NFL background will help him. However, Graham had that as well, so one can call that a wash.

First-year Tennessee head coach Butch Jones referred to Gillespie as a high-energy coach shortly after he was hired. He'd better be to compete with the Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes -- because it looks like that's where he and the Vols are about to face off.