Football Head Coach Sean Kugler Hires Offensive and Defensive Coordinators

Jeff Choate, Defensive Coordinator

Jan. 8, 2013

EL PASO – New UTEP football head coach, Sean Kugler, announces the hiring of Patrick Higgins and Jeff Choate to lead the Miners' offensive and defensive units, respectively on Wednesday.

Patrick Higgins, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach

Patrick Higgins, who was a member of the UTEP football staff from 1998-2003 under Charlie Bailey and Gary Nord, has returned to the Sun City as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for new head coach Sean Kugler.

He has coached in nine bowl games – 2000 Humanitarian Bowl, 2005-2009 Las Vegas Bowl, 2010 New Mexico Bowl, 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl.  He has also coached 15 players who have signed NFL contracts. 

“I had the opportunity to work with coach Higgins here at UTEP,” Kugler said.  “I have known him for a long time.  I can’t think of a more detailed, organized coach to be our offensive coordinator.  He has had a lot of great experience even since he’s left UTEP, having been at Louisiana Tech, BYU and Purdue.  He has been a head coach, a coordinator and a special teams coordinator.  I have seen his work ethic up close and I’m excited to have him on board.  He will do a great job.”

Most recently Higgins spent two seasons at Purdue (2011-12), coaching the wide receivers and acting as the Boilermakers’ interim head coach for the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

He was also Purdue’s interim offensive coordinator for the final three games of the 2012 regular season with Nord sidelined due to a back injury.



Antavian Edison and Gary Bush combined to account for 15 of Purdue’s 30 touchdown receptions in 2012.  Edison earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.  O.J. Ross ranked third in the league in receptions per game (5.1), and Edison was fifth (4.5).

In 2011, Justin Siller led the Boilermakers with 50 catches, and Edison had a team-high 584 receiving yards.  Purdue capped the seven-win campaign with a 37-32 win over Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Higgins served as the outside receivers coach and special teams coordinator at BYU from 2005-10.  The Cougars posted a 56-21 during that time with six bowl appearances, four bowl wins and two outright Mountain West Conference titles. 

In 2005, BYU ranked sixth nationally in passing offense (310.1 ypg), 13th in total offense (462.4 ypg) and 24th in scoring offense (33.0 ppg).  In 2006, the Cougars finished 11-2 overall and 8-0 in the Mountain West Conference, rating fourth in the country in passing offense (323.5 ypg) and total offense (465.5 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (36.8 ppg).  BYU was also 11-2 (8-0 MWC) in 2007, ranking 14th in the FBS in passing offense (298.4 ypg) and 25th in total offense (442.8 ypg).     

The Cougars put together a 10-3 campaign in 2008, averaging 310.4 yards passing (sixth in the nation), 444.8 yards of offense (16th) and 34.2 points (20th).  Austin Collie led the country in receiving that year with 118.3 yards per game, and also rated 12th in kickoff returns (27.5 avg.).  He is BYU’s all-time leading receiver (3,255 yards), earned All-America honors as a junior and currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts.  BYU was 11-2 in 2009 behind another dominant offense that averaged 35.5 ppg (11th in the FBS), 281.5 yards passing (17th) and 427.2 yards of offense (21st).

BYU led the nation in third-down conversion percentage in 2009 (.556), finished second in 2008 (.557) and 2006 (.560), and ranked no lower than 21st among all FBS teams in the category during Higgins’ six seasons.   BYU was also ninth in the nation in kickoff returns in 2008 (24.6 avg.), and 20th in punt returns in 2006 (12.9 avg.).  The Cougars were 17th in kickoff returns in 2007 (23.8 avg.).

Higgins spent the 2004 season at Louisiana Tech, where he was tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

With Higgins as offensive coordinator, UTEP scored 30-plus points 16 times and 40 or more on eight occasions in a four-year span (2000-03).  The 2000 Miners won the WAC title and ranked 22nd nationally in scoring offense (32.3 ppg), 27th in passing offense (248.2 ypg) and 36th in total offense (407.5 ypg).  Quarterback Rocky Perez was eighth in the nation in passing efficiency (147.14), and Lee Mays was eighth in receiving (99.8 ypg).  Brian Natkin was a unanimous All-America choice after leading all tight ends nationally with 64 catches for 787 yards.  Natkin is currently a member of the UTEP staff. 

Higgins previously was the Miners’ wide receivers coach in 1998 and 1999.  He worked with 22 All-WAC performers during his first stint in El Paso.

A native of Pendleton, N.Y., Higgins came to UTEP from Columbia University in New York City, where he had worked as running backs coach in 1997.

From 1994-96, Higgins was the offensive coordinator and special teams coach at Shepherd College, an NCAA Division II institution in Shepherdstown, W. Va.  He was also responsible for coaching the Rams’ quarterbacks and receivers.  In 1994 and 1996 the Rams finished among the top-16 teams in the country in total offense.

Higgins has also seen duty as a head coach at St. Andrews Prep in Savannah, Ga. in 1993.  He also coached college ball at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minn. (wide receivers 1988), Quincy University in Quincy, Ill. (offensive coordinator 1990, defensive coordinator 1991) and William Penn College in Oskaloosa, Iowa (head coach 1992).

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, with a minor in Biology, from William Penn College in 1986.  He received his master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from St. Cloud State in 1989.

His wife’s name is Karen.

Jeff Choate, Defensive Coordinator

Jeff 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.

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