By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
Former Boise State special teams coach Jeff Choate’s move to Washington State was motivated by his desire to change his career path.
Choate wants to become a defensive coordinator and head coach, titles he didn’t think he could achieve as someone known as a special teams guru.
He’ll be the linebackers coach at Washington State, which hired a full-time special teams coordinator. Choate’s hiring was announced last week.
“I really wasn’t interested in leaving Boise State to do the same thing I was doing there,” Choate said Monday. “We had such an awesome thing going there. (Coach Chris Petersen) is a hell of a guy to work for and it’s just a great place.
“But I was interested in getting into more of the defensive game-planning, moving myself in a direction where I could be a defensive coordinator, because I just didn’t feel like that opportunity was there.”
Choate was the Broncos’ running backs coach from 2006 to 2008, the linebackers coach in 2009 and the nickels coach in 2010-11.
The former Idaho high school coach also coached special teams at Utah State (2003-04) and Eastern Illinois (2005) — his two previous college stops. He was a graduate assistant at Utah State in 2002.
Choate received phone calls from schools interested in hiring him to coach special teams in recent years but they were surprised to learn he’d rather coach defense, he said. He also felt like his lack of experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator hurt him during his interview last month for the head job at Eastern Illinois.
“The one negative about being a special teams coach is people don’t look at you as anything other than a special teams coach,” he said. “… I just felt like I had a lot left in the tank, that I could be a heck of a defensive coordinator if given the opportunity, that I could be a head coach. I don’t think those things were going to happen if I stayed in Boise. … Nobody thinks of me as anything but a special teams coach. I think that’s totally wrong. I’m a ball coach.”
Here are some other highlights from Choate:
— He was approached about the Washington State job by special teams coordinator Eric Russell. Russell and Choate both went to St. Maries High and have kept a relationship over the years. Russell, then at Tennessee, attended a Boise State practice last spring. Choate said his interest depended on the defensive coordinator and he was intrigued when the Cougars hired Mike Breske from Montana, a guy he knew and who runs a 3-4 system that Choate likes.
— On leaving Boise: “It was way, way harder than I thought it would be, not really because I didn’t think it was the best thing for me and my career but just because of how attached I’d grown to the players and people there at Boise State. I was an emotional wreck that day. … It was an opportunity for me to do the things I’ve been saying I wanted to do. If I’m going to tell my players to chase their dreams … I don’t want to be that hypocrite who doesn’t live the life he’s trying to get others to live.”
— On coaching special teams: “I’m not coaching special teams for anybody but Chris Petersen.”
— On how his move from linebackers to nickels, when Bob Gregory joined the staff in 2010, affected him: “When a guy like Bob calls you, you can’t say no to that. First of all, he’s such a first-class person. So that was awesome, but that wasn’t going to afford me to take the career path that I wanted to take. That was maybe a little bit of a catalyst in some regard. But I wouldn’t change my two years working with Bob Gregory for anything. The way the staff came together, it minimized my role a little bit on the defensive side and allowed me to focus on special teams. This move really flips that for me.”
— On whether he’ll be involved in special teams at Washington State: “Yeah, I’m sure. You wouldn’t believe the people that have called me wanting my stuff, thinking I’m out of it. Eric and I have a long-standing relationship. He’s already picking my brain. … Let me say this, I wasn’t the only guy coaching special teams at Boise State and he won’t be the only one coaching special teams at Washington State. It’s always a team effort.”
— He said the move was “parallel” financially. “I’ve coached football for nothing and I’d do it again,” he said.
— He said he will not recruit Boise State commits to Washington State. He recruited the Houston area, where four players are committed to the Broncos, as well as nickel Chris Santini and punter/kicker Sean Wale. He also was in charge of in-state recruiting. He has been making contact with the recruits. “What I tell them is, ‘The reason you chose Boise State wasn’t because of Jeff Choate. For the most part, your position coach is still there, the coordinator is still there, and most importantly the head coach is there. Boise State is a great place for you. I believed that when you committed to us and I believe that now.’ ”
— On the staff departures — offensive coordinator Brent Pease (Florida), defensive backs coach Marcel Yates (Texas A&M) and Choate: “For Marcel and I, it was time. Marcel had been there longer than any of us had with the exception of coach Petersen. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Sometimes in this business you’ve got to move. People have got to know that you’re still out there, that you’re alive. … The moves he and I are making are moves we feel like we need to make to take the next step.”
— On how Boise State will be different: “Different can be really good. It shouldn’t be scary. People should embrace it. There’s a lot of change there right now. That place ain’t going to fall apart overnight. It’s going to be just fine. The guy that’s guiding the ship is the best that’s ever been in my opinion. He knows what he’s doing.”
— He said he talked to Petersen about potential replacements before interviewing with Eastern Illinois. “Great head coaches, they don’t think about if a guy leaves. They think about when. He has a plan in place. It’s going to be seamless, in my opinion.”
The Broncos’ four Houston-area recruits were featured in the Houston Chronicle over the weekend.
Tight end Armand Nance, who was recruited by Choate, said he has “no concerns at all” about his commitment.
He and the other Houston recruits — wide receiver/running back Shane Rhodes, running back Devan Demas and linebacker Ben Weaver — have started to form a bond.
“My relationship started with Shane, but I’m building a relationship with Devan and Ben,” Nance said. “We’ll have a lot in common by the time we get up there to Idaho.”
Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford has received an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine. That makes a record seven Bronco invitees — quarterback Kellen Moore, tailback Doug Martin, safety George Iloka, defensive tackle Billy Winn, defensive end Shea McClellin, offensive tackle Nate Potter and Crawford.
Crawford is working out in Michigan with teammate Chase Baker. Crawford has been told to work on some linebacker skills so he can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense if necessary.
Crawford and wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker are at the East-West Shrine Game this week. The game is Saturday.
Linebacker Aaron Tevis plays in the Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game at 6 p.m. today in Tucson, Ariz. That game airs on Fox Sports Arizona.