The Idaho Statesman ran a very interesting interview with new Washington State linebackers coach Jeff Choate on Monday. Choate was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades at Boise State before settling in as the special teams coach. When he was hired, I wondered why he seemed to change positions almost every year, working with the running backs, linebackers and nickels, in addition to his work with the special teams. As it turns out, that seems to be part of the reason he decided to leave Boise.
Choate is a superb special teams coach, but has a desire for something more. And the biggest reason he came to Washington State was what seems like a role that had become stagnant at Boise State.
"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."
With the Cougars, Choate will likely pitch in with the special teams, but it won't be his primary focus. Longtime friend and current WSU special teams coach Eric Russell -- the two graduated from St. Maries in Idaho -- recruited Choate to Washington State and the two, along with the rest of the coaching staff, will all exchange ideas.
It's also interesting to note that Choate was intrigued by Mike Breske and the opportunity to implement the former Montana defensive coordinator's 3-4 defense. This wasn't a situation where Choate got a big raise to pull him away from Boise, either; he said it was, essentially, a lateral move financially. Sometimes, an opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to build something is all it takes.
Looking up and down Mike Leach's list of former assistants, it's no wonder Choate felt Washington State was a good opportunity to work his way towards being a defensive coordinator at some point. Leach has a proven track record and strong coaching tree, both on the offensive side of the ball -- hello, Dana Holgorsen, Art Briles and Sonny Dykes -- as well as the defensive, where Greg McMackin and Ruffin McNeill both ended up as head coaches.
Keep what Leach said in mind when he was first hired: He wanted assistants who were hungry. He wanted guys who lived and breathed football, and Choate seems to fit the mold. He's intense and his own philosophy seems to fit in with that of Breske. Perhaps Choate can take some of that special teams magic -- we know about kickers missing field goals, Boise State; his overall body of work is superb nonetheless -- and put it to work with the linebackers and defense.