When Gillespie went on his visit to the University of Missouri he met fellow safety, Joshuah Bledsoe. The two would play next to one another for four years and become inseparable friends.
Gillespie is a former three-star recruit from Florida who committed to Missouri over offers from Iowa State, Louisville and others. He would contribute in a special teams role as a freshman before taking over as the starting safety midway through his sophomore season.
Although never recording an interception, Gillespie had a successful career as a versatile piece in the Tigers secondary, racking up 146 tackles and 12 passes defended. To put the icing on the cake of his collegiate career, he received an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he will be competing alongside his friend, Joshuah Bledsoe, once again.
Lined up all over the Missouri secondary, whether as the deep safety in single-high, two-high, or in the box, as well as in man coverage on tight ends and slot receivers, Gillespie competes. He is a physical defensive back who will make receivers pay for crossing the middle with hard but clean hits.
When he comes downhill, Gillespie takes direct angles on ball-carriers and attempts to wrap up consistently, aiming for the hips. He also does well to stay clean from blockers in the run game. The momentum of ball carriers or blockers stops when he engages them, a testament to his strength.
When tasked to cover opponents man-to-man, he does well to stay square, patiently waiting for the receiver to break in front of him, as he has the movement skills to trigger and break up the pass from behind. When the receiver attempts to run by him, Gillespie makes contact with the receiver. He has the ability to turn with the receiver thanks to his loose hips but needs to be cautious not to have opponents run on his toes as frequently.
In zone coverage, he can transition out of his clean backpedal and break on routes in front of him. Gillepsie demonstrates excellent closing quickness and impressive burst. He prefers to keep everything in front of him where he can have his eyes on it.
The trust he has in his eyes can deceive him at times, as quarterbacks are able to hold or move him in deep zones. Biting on concepts designed to fool him fairly easily causes him to end up in the wrong spots of the field. Gillespie lacks the long speed and range required to play in a single high but can be rotated into that position occasionally.
The senior safety projects as a split field safety who has the physicality required to play in the box, as well as the necessary athleticism to man up on tight ends. This versatility will intrigue defensive coordinators that like to shift their defenses pre and post-snap to confuse the offense.
Adding weight without losing his fluidity and burst could further assist him, if asked to play in the box predominantly. Gillespie will have to spend some time to work on his anticipation and understanding of offensive concepts to be better when getting put in conflict. His physicality and tackling, as well as his college experience, should project well to a special teams role.
From single-high, Gillespie comes downhill and forces an incompletion on the pass over the middle by delivering a hard hit:
From the same alignment, he runs the alley aggressively and stops the tap pass for minimal gain:
Here he flows laterally with the run play and makes the tackle on the back:
In man coverage against Kyle Pitts, Gillespie kept his composure and knocked the pass incomplete from behind. Notice how he wastes no time breaking on the route:
His lack of range is apparent when he is a step late coming to the post after peeling off of the crossing pattern:
On this touchdown pass the quarterback starts off left, holding Gillespie just long enough to have the crossing route coming open for six: