Higgins Returns to UTEP as Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach, Kugler Calls on Choate to Coordinate Defense
Football Head Coach Sean Kugler Hires Offensive and Defensive Coordinators
UTEP Head Football Coach Sean Kugler appointed Jeff Choate as defensive coordinator on Tuesday.
Choate has coached in six bowl games -- the 2007 & 2010 Fiesta Bowl, 2007 Hawai'i Bowl, 2008 Poinsettia Bowl, and 2010 & 2011 Las Vegas Bowl.
"Coach Choate is the epitome of an energizer bunny," Kugler said. "His motor runs full 24/7. I had the opportunity to work with him at Boise State. He has worked on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. 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 got the Texas pipeline started at Boise State. I'm excited about the unmatched energy he's going to bring on a daily basis to our program."
Choate comes to El Paso after spending the 2012 campaign as linebackers coach at Washington State. He coached three players to honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors - senior Travis Long, sophomore Cyrus Coen and freshman Darryl Monroe. The Cougars were eighth in the nation in tackles for losses (7.7 avg.) and 11th in sacks (2.9 avg.) last season.
Choate was on the Boise State staff for the previous six seasons, coaching the running backs (2006-08), linebackers (2009) and nickel backs (2010-11), while also serving as special teams coach all six years.
As running backs coach, he was instrumental in the development of Ian Johnson, who became both the Boise State and Western Athletic Conference all-time leader with 58 rushing touchdowns. Johnson ran for 4,183 yards in a Bronco uniform - second in school history - and led the NCAA in rushing touchdowns (25) and scoring (152 points) in 2006. He established a school single-season standard with 1,714 rushing yards that year.
Choate's linebackers played a major role in Boise State rating no. 14 nationally in both total defense (300.2 ypg) and scoring defense (17.1 ppg) in 2009. The Broncos led the WAC in six defensive statistical categories - passing efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, pass defense, tackles for losses and sacks allowed.
In 2010, Choate worked with first team All-WAC honoree Winston Venable as the Broncos rated second in the FBS in scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and total defense (254.7 ypg).
Among Choate's special teams protégés was Kyle Brotzman, the highest-scoring kicker in NCAA history (439 points) and the Broncos' career leader in punting average (44.6). In 2008, Choate coached Kyle Wilson, who led the country in punt return touchdowns (three) and ranked 12th in punt return average (14.2). 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.
Boise State ranked in the top-25 nationally in kickoff returns in 2007 (10th, 24.7 avg.), 2009 (fourth, 26.6 avg.) and 2010 (23rd, 23.6 avg.), and in the top-25 in punt returns in 2007 (22nd, 12.3 avg.), 2008 (20th, 12.3 avg.), 2010 (16th, 12.7 avg.) and 2011 (18th, 11.9 avg.). The Broncos were rated as high as 12th in the FBS in kickoff return coverage in 2009, and 14th in punt return coverage in 2008.
Choate had previous collegiate coaching stops at Utah State (2003-04) and Eastern Illinois (2005), serving as the special teams coach at both institutions. He began his college coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah State, working with the defensive line and the safeties.
From 1997-2001 Choate was the head coach at Post Falls (Idaho) High School and also served as athletic director the final two years. Post Falls advanced to the state playoffs in both 1998 and 1999. Before coaching at Post Falls, Choate was the defensive coordinator at Twin Falls (Idaho) High School in 1996 and was the head coach at Challis (Idaho) High School from 1994-95. He earned District Six Coach of the Year honors after Challis registered its first winning season in 10 years and made the playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years. Choate is a 1993 graduate of Montana-Western, where he served two seasons as an assistant coach while completing his degree. He played linebacker at Montana-Western.
He and his wife, Janet, have a son, Jory, and a daughter, Jacy.