STILLWATER — Almost all of Robert Gillespie’s football life has been spent in the South. He grew up in Hattiesburg, Miss., played college ball as a running back for Steve Spurrier at Florida, hung around with the NFL’s Washington Redskins for a couple of years and got into coaching with Spurrier at South Carolina.
Yet when he took the job of running backs coach at Oklahoma State in January, it wasn’t Gillespie, but his players who experienced the culture shock. Every OSU running back, from senior Keith Toston down to freshmen Kye Staley and Travis Miller, had been recruited and coached by Curtis Luper, developing relationships with him through his style as a father-figure coach. That’s not Gillespie. He builds relationships with his backs, but on the field, he isn’t gentle. He isn’t soft or nurturing. He’s hard-core coach. "He’s tough,” Toston said. "He watches every little thing that we do. When we get in the meeting room, he’s sure to point out every mistake that we made, so the next time you’re thinking about doing every little thing right. "He gets down our throat about the littlest things, and it’s showed in spring practices. We started doing the little things right.” Gillespie says his coaching style is the amalgam of each of his favorite coaches from the past, all the way back to high school, melded with his own competitive personality. "When I first met him, I felt like he was a very energized man and he was about business,” senior Beau Johnson said.