Jeff Choate returns to Idaho to become the new running backs and special teams coach, head coach Chris Petersen announced. Choate brings impressive credentials to the position. His Eastern Illinois team finished last year first in the Ohio Valley Conference and 22nd in the country in net punting at 34.3 yards per punt. Choate's place kicker was named to the OVC All-Newcomer Team. Before coaching for the Panthers, Choate was special teams coach at Utah State, where the Aggies led Division I-A in punt returns in 2004. Choate's units also were ranked 24th in the country in kickoff returns and 27th in net punting. Utah State was one of just six schools in the country to have three special team units in the top 30.
"This guy is a special teams phenom," Petersen said. "The energy and enthusiasm he brings to the game and talking about that aspect of our game is contagious. It's fun to listen to him teach the game of special teams so we are thrilled to have him. Our guys are going to love him, he has some good ties to Idaho and he's just going to be a really good addition and fit to our staff."
Choate inherits a Boise State squad that has already generated eye-popping statistics of its own. Quinton Jones finished 2nd in the country last year in punt returns with a sizzling 20.86 yards per return average, taking 3 returns for touchdowns in a feat that only one other player in the nation can claim. Jones also finished #32 in the country in kickoff returns with a 24.7 average while senior Lee Marks ended the year 10th in the country with a 27.88 average. The duo combined to lead the Broncos to the 12th-rated kickoff return team in Division I-A. Boise State finished 23rd in net punting with 36.13 yards per kick thanks to the booming punts of Kyle Stringer. Boise State has become known for being one of the most solid special teams schools in college football, solid in every aspect. The Broncos finished last season 17th in punt return coverage, allowing a mere 5.86 yards per return and 29th in kickoff return coverage holding opponents to just 18.66 yards per kickoff return. In addition, Boise State sent place kicker Tyler Jones to the Washington Redskins of the National Football League this season after Jones was one of three finalists for the prestigious Lou Groza Award in 2004, given annual to the country's top place kicker.
The Broncos' running game too has joined the elite running attacks in the country, finishing in the top 20 in each of the past two seasons. Last year, Boise State amassed over 200 yards per game for the second consecutive season, finishing with a 4.7 yards per carry average. The Broncos will feature one of the most promising backs in Boise State history each of the next three seasons in Ian Johnson. Johnson saw limited action as a freshman under Coach Dan Hawkins' system of rotating players but is expected to shine under new coach Chris Petersen. Johnson gained 678 yards and scored 4 touchdowns in just 119 carries under Hawkins.
Choate was a graduate assistant at Utah State and worked with the defensive line and safeties before becoming the special teams coach. Prior to that, he was head football coach at Post Falls for five years, also serving as the school's athletic director for two years. Post Falls advanced to the Idaho State tournament in both 1998 and 1999. Choate also was head coach at Challis High School in 1994-95 and served as defensive coordinator at Twin Falls High in 1996.