Gators hire Jeff Choate as special teams coach
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As the Boise State football program darted onto the national radar over the last decade, the influx of players from talent-rich Texas played a prominent role in the Broncos’ rise.
Former Boise State assistant Jeff Choate, considered one of the country’s top special-teams coaches, was often credited with helping open that pipeline. Gators coach Will Muschamp, during his three seasons at Texas, met Choate and was impressed enough to keep him in mind as a possible future colleague.
That time has arrived as Muschamp announced Wednesday that Choate is Florida’s new special-teams coordinator. Choate was most recently at UTEP, where he served as defensive coordinator this spring, and at Washington State, where he worked last season as linebackers coach under Cougars head coach Mike Leach.
“We are excited to have Jeff Choate join our staff,” said Muschamp. “He is a high-energy coach, an outstanding recruiter and evaluator, and has a reputation as one of the top special-teams coaches in the nation. He has coached on both sides of the ball and was most recently a defensive coordinator. He sees the big picture and will be a great addition to our staff.”
During those visits with Choate in Texas – Muschamp said Choate visited UF during spring practice last year -- the two developed a football-fueled connection.
“We are very much on the same page philosophically,’’ Muschamp said.
The 42-year-old Choate played at Montana-Western and started his coaching career in Idaho, working at three high schools as either a head coach or assistant coach. He started coaching on the college level in 2001 as a defensive line and defensive backs graduate assistant at Utah State.
Choate’s longest coaching stint came at Boise State, where he spent six seasons as a Broncos assistant alongside current Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
Getting an opportunity to coach at Florida was one Choate decided he couldn’t pass up despite just getting to UTEP a few months ago, where he was reunited with Miners first-year coach Sean Kugler. They had been assistants together in 2006 at Boise State.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Gator staff and have the chance to compete at the highest level,” said Choate. “I’ve gotten to know Coach Muschamp over the past couple of years and have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and a person. I’m looking forward to continuing the great special-teams tradition that has been established here and can’t wait to get to work.
“I would also like to thank everyone at UTEP, and most importantly Coach Kugler, for the support and opportunity they gave me. I wish him and the program nothing but the best of luck.”
In his one season at Washington State, Choate coached three linebackers to All-Pac 12 honorable mention honors (senior Travis Long, sophomore Cyrus Coen and freshman Darryl Monroe). Washington State ranked eighth in the nation in tackles for losses (7.7 avg.) and 11th in sacks (2.9 avg.).
Choate was hired as defensive coordinator at UTEP in January. Kugler, who spent the last three seasons as offensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, saw some of the same things in Choate others have pointed to over the years.
“Coach Choate is the epitome of an energizer bunny, his motor runs full 24/7,’’ Kugler told reporters in January. “He is one of the best recruiters you’ll ever be around.”
At Boise State, Choate’s special-teams units were usually among the tops in the country. Boise State’s 2009 special-teams unit was rated no. 1 in the nation by Phil Steele, led by Titus Young, who returned two kickoff returns for touchdowns to garner first team All-WAC honors. Young averaged 26.9 yards on kickoff returns that season to rate 20th in the nation.
Under Choate, Boise State ranked in the top 25 nationally in kickoff returns three times (2007, 10th; 2009, fourth; 2010, 23rd), and in the top 25 in punt returns four times (2007, 22nd; 2008, 20th; 2010, 16th; 2011, 18th).