By Cam Huffman
Just when Dana Holgorsen was convinced he finally had his coaching staff in place for the start of spring practice on March 10, another coach has left the West Virginia University football program, and Holgorsen is back in interview mode, looking for a replacement.
The latest defection came from running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who made the decision Friday night to accept the same position at Tennessee.
Gillespie, who came to Morgantown with Holgorsen and spent the last two seasons coaching the WVU backs, will join new Tennessee head coach Butch Jones, another former Mountaineer assistant, with the Volunteers, after former UT coach Jay Graham left for a job at Florida State on Monday.
“The Gillespie family had a blast at WVU and you guys will always hold a place in our hearts,” the coach posted on his Twitter account Saturday morning. “We’ll always root for the Mountaineers.”
When a replacement for Gillespie is named, he will be the fifth new coach to join the Mountaineers this offseason.
Steve Dunlap (linebackers) and Daron Roberts (cornerbacks) were let go following the season. Jake Spavital (quarterbacks) left to become the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Bill Bedenbaugh (offensive line) left for the same position at Oklahoma and now Gillespie has traded his gold and blue for orange.
To fill those spots, WVU hired Tony Gibson (safeties), Brian Mitchell (cornerbacks), Lonnie Galloway (wide receivers) and Ron Crook (offensive line). Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will take control of the quarterbacks (he had coaches wide receivers) and former defensive coordinator Joe DeForest (who was replaced by Keith Patterson, already on the staff) will handle linebackers.
Holgorsen is expected to move fast on the latest hire to have somebody in place for the start of spring practice.
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Former WVU star quarterback Pat White — the only Mountaineer signal caller to ever win four bowl games in his career, which included two BCS Bowl victories — is taking steps to reach his goal of a comeback in the National Football League.
College football’s all-time quarterback rushing leader when he left WVU after a win over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2008, White was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.
His playing time was sparse as a rookie, though. He failed to complete a pass in five attempts and rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries. He suffered a concussion late in the season against the Steelers and was cut the next season. He hasn’t played professional football since.
White stated in January, though, that he was ready to try to make a comeback after a short stint in minor league baseball didn’t work.
Proving that his statement was more than just words, White has been working with quarterback coach George Whitfield, who has coached Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger in rcent years. He will be one of two quarterbacks at WVU’s pro day on March 14 along with Geno Smith, who’s considered by many the top quarterback in this year’s draft.
White will have plenty of eyes on him with nearly every NFL team sending a representative to Morgantown to check out Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The question is whether he can impress one of those scouts enough to take a chance.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.