Florida announces hiring of Coleman Hutzler as special teams coach, replacing Jeff Choate

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

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20 Responses to “Florida announces hiring of Coleman Hutzler as special teams coach, replacing Jeff Choate”

  1. Champ supporter says:

    Get on! Special teams needs new life! It was the worst I have seen in a long time at Florida along with other things. However, I am glad to see what looks like steps to get better.

  2. David says:

    Kyle Christy’s performance bothered me all season. He went from being a punter who was responsible for victories in 2012 to a liability this past season. I hope that the new coach will be able to sort out his situation and Christy is able to return to his former form.

    • Champ supporter says:

      I agree. Where were the big plays on special teams? That was something Florida has been known for in the last few seasons!

      • David says:

        I was looking forward to Andre Debose returning kicks until his injury. I felt sympathy for him, for not having a proper coach last year and clashing with the GA. In preseason interviews he appeared very enthusiastic about the start of the season and having Coach Phillips on staff. He may have been able to produce some of the big plays on the return team that the Gators have been lacking.

        Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying in my OP that Choate was the reason for Christy’s struggles. I just hope that the new coach is able to fix whatever was wrong with his punting. (I believe at some point during the season a former punter said it was a problem with his drop??)

  3. Champ supporter says:

    Adam, do you think this hurts any recruits? I never hear any recruits talk about him being the one who communicates with him.

  4. Wes says:

    Anyone have any idea how much the special teams coordinator actually works with the kickers? I feel like the specialists just go work on their own with the coordinator focused on coverage and return duties, but I could be wrong.

  5. Daniel M. says:

    Choate had the Pease stink on him. Good riddance.

  6. Amanda says:

    Interesting news and glad for the change, was not a fan of Choate. Just a heads up, though…Chris Petersen. E not O. Have seen it a ton in multiple outlets, not just here. Hope you don’t mind the correction, but my -50 point for fact error J-school training is responsible.

  7. Champ supporter says:

    Adam, how significant is the report about Clay Helton staying at USC? I know the list of candidates is somewhat media driven, but it seems that all of the names are taken. Are there still legitimate candidates out there?

  8. Champ supporter says:

    Adam, do you have any idea where that leaves Florida?

  9. Champ supporter says:

    Sorry, as far as candidates…

  10. G2 says:

    I thought he was our ace in the hole….now what?
    Need an OC now! Gonna be ticked if they promote someone on the staff, that’s not going to cut it in my opinion.

  11. aziatic41 says:

    @Adam,

    Any news on the leading candidate for the OC position ?

    • nugent1021 says:

      yeah, this is getting interesting. Muschamp doesn’t seem willing to hang his career on Kerwin Bell, I was hoping it would have been Christensen. He was established. Helton looked okay. He’s probably not going to move now. Any word on the latest?

  12. Aligator says:

    WC will unfortunately not be able to find a good OC that wants to be brought in to save his job and to coach under his conservative focus for his vision on the offense. To be clear, I love UF, Gator athletics and Gainesville! I just see a dead man walking and no one wants to save his skin, so don’t expect to see any big names for the OC.