The vacancy created on the Florida Gators coaching staff when defensive line coach Bryant Young resigned one week ago has already be filled. The school officially announced on Wednesday that UTEP Miners defensive coordinator Jeff Choate has been added as the new special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach.
“We are excited to have Jeff Choate join our staff,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp in a school release. “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. We are very much on the same page philosophically.”
Choate, who accepted the position at UTEP just over three months ago on Jan. 8, after the program hired Sean Kugler to be its head coach, was the linebackers coach at Washington State under Mike Leach during the 2012 season.
He spent the previous six years primarily as special teams coordinator for the Boise State Broncos. During his tenure at Boise State, Choate also coached running backs (2006-08), linebackers (2009) and nickel backs (2010-11). He was a member of the same coaching staff as current Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who also worked with the Broncos from 2006-11.
Muschamp has been looking to fill his squad’s special teams coordinator job ever since he promoted D.J. Durkin to defensive coordinator following the 2012 season. He originally stated that special teams, in absence of its own coach, would be taught collectively by his staff. However, following Young’s resignation, Muschamp conceded that he would prefer to bring on a special teams coach.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to join the Gator staff and have the chance to compete at the highest level,” Choate said. “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.”
Under Choate, Boise State put together consistently productive special teams units. He coached Kyle Brotzman – the highest-scoring kicker in NCAA history and the team’s all-time leader in punting average – as well as skilled returners like Titus Young (kickoffs) and Kyle Wilson (punts).
College football analyst Phil Steele considered the Broncos’ special teams unit to be the best in the country in 2009 and second-best in the nation one year earlier in 2008.
Choate was praised by Kugler, upon his hiring at UTEP, as “the epitome of an Energizer Bunny.” Kugler continued: “His motor runs full 24/7. … He was probably the top special teams coach in the country when he was at Boise State. He is one of the best recruiters you’ll ever be around.”
He began his college career as a graduate assistant at Utah State who was quickly promoted and served two seasons as special teams coach (2003-04). Choate held the same position in 2005 with Eastern Illinois before being hired by Boise State.
The connection between Pease and Choate appears to go back a long way. The former Idaho high school football players grew up 70 miles apart with Pease playing quarterback at Mountain Home High School and Choate playing linebacker for St. Maries High School. Pease played at Montana in 1985-86 and returned to the program as a coach from 1991-98. Choate, at the time Pease was coaching approximately 175 miles away, played for Montana-Western and was eventually hired on for two seasons as an assistant coach as he completed his degree.
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