Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp on Friday officially made a third adjustment to his coaching staff following the disastrous 2013 season, in which his team went 4-8, when he announced the resignation of special teams coordinator / outside linebackers coach Jeff Choate and subsequent hiring of Coleman Hutzler, who held the same position with the New Mexico Lobos.
FootballScoop.com and CoachingSearch.com both reported the transition Thursday night.
Choate, who left a position as defensive coordinator with UTEP in January – just three months after taking the job – for the opportunity to coach at Florida, came highly recommended by former offensive coordinator Brent Pease, whom he coached side-by-side with at Boise State from 2006-11.
Hutzler worked at Stanford as a recruiting assistant (2007) and defensive/special teams assistant (2008-09) while current Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin served as special teams coordinator at the school. He joined Durkin at Florida in 2010 under then-head coach Urban Meyer as a defensive/special teams assistant, remaining with the program in 2011. He was hired by New Mexico in 2012 at his current position.
“Coleman is a young coach with a very bright future,” said Muschamp in a school release. “He has a great work ethic and obviously is very familiar with our special teams’ schemes. It will be a seamless transition for our players.”
Said Hutzler: “I’m excited to be returning to Gainesville and be a part of the Gator family again. I enjoyed my time there and have the utmost respect for Coach Muschamp and the administrative team in place at Florida. I understand the value placed on special teams under Coach Muschamp, and look forward to getting to work.”
Former Gators punter Chas Henry told OnlyGators.com Thursday night that he felt Florida was bringing back someone who could help the program going forward.
“He was a great young coach while I was there, seemed to absorb everything that coaches were teaching as a graduate assistant,” Henry said.
In his first season with the Lobos, the team jumped from 112th nationally in net punting to 25th. New Mexico also leapt from 106th in the country punt return yardage defense to 19th and 70th in kickoff returns to 24th nationally.
This year, the Lobos boasted the 16th-ranked kickoff return unit in the nation and ranked seventh in the country in punting average. Hutzler coached the 2013 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year in kick returner Carlos Wiggins (29.6 yards per return, three return touchdowns) and Ben Skaer, the 2013 All-Mountain West First Team punter (45.8 yards per boot). Both players set single-season records at UNM.
Choate took over for Durkin in 2013 after Durkin was promoted by Muschamp from special teams coordinator to defensive coordinator following the departure of Dan Quinn.
Parts of UF’s special teams struggled mightily this season with three kickers combining to go 12-for-22 on field goals (season-long of 44 yards) and the Gators’ punters averaging just 40.9 yards per attempt. Florida linebacking corps also struggled at times throughout the year. Durkin was responsible for the inside linebackers.
Choate joins Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis as Florida coaches looking for new work this offseason. Pease has already been tabbed by Chris Petersen, his former head coach at Boise State, to coach wide receivers at Washington next year.
FootballScoop.com reports that Choate is hoping to join Pease and Petersen.
The Gators on Friday also announced the hiring of Drew Hughes as the program’s new director of player personnel. He worked at Alabama under Nick Saban (2007-11) and Central Florida (2012) before being hired to the same position by the N.C. State Wolfpack in 2013.
“Drew will be a great asset to our program,” Muschamp said. “He is extremely organized, and based on his experience he has a very good understanding of how we operate and should fit right in.”
This position had previously been unfilled after Florida and Jon Haskins parted ways in September.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to work for Coach Muschamp and the University of Florida,” said Hughes in a school release. “It will be great to get back to the state of Florida and the SEC – the best conference in the nation. I’m very much looking forward to helping the Florida coaching staff attract student athletes who will be champions both on and off the field.”
According to Rivals, N.C. State’s 2014 recruiting class is ranked 25th nationally as of press time. The Wolfpack were ranked No. 47 and No. 53, respectively, in 2013 and 2012.
Photo Credit: Olivia Angeloff/The Daily Eastern News