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CONFIRMED: Choate to Texas as co-DC, LB coach

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BOZEMAN, Montana — And just like that, the man who built a reputation as the greatest Griz slayer since Sonny Holland is on the way to the Lone Star State.

Less than a month after serving as a finalist for the head coaching opening at Boise State, Jeff Choate will be hired as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Texas. Seven independent sources with direct knowledge of the hiring confirmed to Skyline Sports that Choate confirmed to his MSU coaching staff in a meeting that he will be joining Steve Sarkisian’s staff for the Longhorns.

Initial indications were that Choate would serve as the special teams coordinator at Texas. But Jeff Banks has been hired as Texas’ special teams coordinator, assistant head coach and tight ends coach after previously working at Alabama.

Instead, Bruce Feldman of the Athletic confirmed that Choate will be the co-defensive coordinator and coach Texas’s inside linebackers

Choate has worked alongside several of the newly hired Longhorn assistants, including under Pete Kwiatkowski during their time together at Washington during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Kwiatkowski, who was Montana State’s defensive coordinator from 2000 to 2005 under head coach Mike Kramer, coached alongside Choate at Boise State from 2006 until 2009. Kwiatkowski was Boise State’s DC from 2010 through 2013, then Washington’s DC from 2014 until last season. Earlier this week, he joined Sarkisian’s staff in Austin as the initial defensive coordinator. At Boise State and Washington, Choate and Kwiatkowski worked for Chris Petersen.

Zach Barnett from Football Scoop originally reported that a deal for Choate’s move was in the works.

During his four seasons at Montana State, Choate took a once-proud program that won three straight Big Sky Conference championships to start the decade and repaired it after the disastrous 2015 season that ultimately left to the dismissal of Rob Ash. In his nine seasons at the helm at MSU, Ash won 70 games, more than any other Bobcat including Sonny Holland, the man widely revered as the greatest Bobcat of them all.

Ash won the Big Sky in 2010, 2011 and 2012, advancing to the FCS playoffs in each season along with in 2014. But a 2-7 record against rival Montana ultimately led to Ash’s demise, culminating in a 54-35 home loss to UM in 2015 to cap the first losing season in 14 at Montana State.

Choate entered with a fiery attitude, a passionate vision and the ability to profess both elements via his articulate, entertaining way of interacting with nearly every person he crossed paths with. Choate’s first season started with six consecutive Big Sky losses but ended on an uptick with wins over UC Davis and an unlikely win 24-17 win over a ranked Montana in Missoula that kept the Griz out of the playoffs.

In 2017, Montana State played the toughest schedule in the Big Sky and were a couple of two-point conversions (in a 16-14 loss to Kennesaw State and a 37-36 loss at Northern Arizona) from making the FCS playoffs. The Bobcats did post a 31-23 win over Montana in Bozeman, the first win by the Bobcats over the Griz on their home field in more than a decade. That helped MSU finish 5-6.

Montana State head coach Jeff Choate/by Brooks Nuanez

In 2018, despite the academic issues of two-year starting quarterback Chris Murray (he did not play at MSU again), the Bobcats broke the playoff drought as linebacker turned quarterback Troy Andersen helped will MSU to a post-season bid and a first-round victory over No. 24 Incarnate Word. Of course, the Bobcats also captured a 29-25 victory over Montana in Missoula in one of the most unforgettable games in the more than century-old rivalry.

And last season, Montana State ascended to the ranks of the nationally elite. The Bobcats defeated four teams ranked in the Top 25 of the FCS, including a win over No. 12 Southeast Missouri State in their home opener and bookended by a a 48-14 decimation of the No. 3 Griz in Bozeman that helped the Bobcats sew up the No. 5 seed in the FCS playoffs and the first-round bye that came with it. MSU beat No. 25 Albany and No. 18 Austin Peay to earn a bid in the semifinals for the first time since 1984.

Choate is most famous (and infamous) around the Treasure State for becoming the first Bobcat coach since Holland to post four straight victories over the Grizzlies. Last year’s whipping was the largest margin of victory posted by MSU over Montana in the two teams’ Big Sky Conference era dating back to 1963.

Outside of the Griz wins, Choate is 24-25 as MSU’s head coach, including 14-14 in Big Sky Conference games. His teams finished tied for ninth, tied for sixth, tied for fourth and tied for third, respectively, over the last four seasons in the Big Sky standings, finishing with a No. 17 national ranking in 2018 and a No. 4 national ranking last season.

Choate is 7-13 all-time against ranked opponents, including 5-13 against ranked teams that aren’t the Grizzlies. Three of those wins came last year. The other two included the 2017 win at North Dakota and the 2018 win over Incarnate Word in the first round of the FCS Playoffs.

Choate leaves Montana State without ever beating North Dakota State (0-2), South Dakota State (0-2), Sacramento State (0-2), Weber State (0-3) or Eastern Washington (0-3).

Choate, a native of Saint Marie’s Idaho, played his college ball in the late 1980s at Montana Western spent most of the 1990s as a high school coach and administrator in Idaho.

Montana State head coach Jeff Choate/ by Brooks Nuanez

In 2002, Choate joined Mick Dennehy’s staff as a graduate assistant at Utah State. He spent three seasons coaching for the former University of Montana head coach in Logan. Choate also played for Dennehy, then fellow former UM head coach Mick Delaney at Montana Western.

In 2005, Choate got his first FCS gig as the special teams coordinator at Eastern Illinois.

In 2006, he joined Petersen’s staff as the special teams coordinator and the running backs coach at Boise State. He served as BSU’s special teams coordinator for six seasons, moving to coach linebackers after his third season.

Choate made stops at Washington State and Florida before rejoining Petersen at the University of Washington for two seasons before taking over the MSU job in December of 2015.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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