Choate faced tough choice

Jeff Choate had a decision to make. He had just completed his first spring at UTEP while serving as the defensive coordinator, a position he wanted for a long time. He finally had the chance to run a defense and call his own plays. And then Will Muschamp called. The vacant position on the Florida staff was Choate's if he wanted it, but the former UTEP defensive coordinator needed time to think.

Choate had the perfect situation at UTEP. He was working under head coach Sean Kugler after the two crossed paths at Boise State. It was a familiar face for Choate in a situation where he had the full support of the head coach to run the defense. After coaching multiple defensive positions throughout his career at Boise State and Washington State, Choate always wanted to have a defense of his own.

After closing spring practice, the signs were optimistic that the team was responding to change and would play well in the fall.

The call from Florida head coach Will Muschamp changed all of that and made Choate rethink. He thought he knew what he wanted while running the defense at UTEP, but the opportunity of the Southeastern Conference stood out in his mind.

"Any time something like that happens, especially when you feel strongly about the people you're working with and for, it can be a challenge," Jeff Choate said on Wednesday.

He went through the normal process, calling some of his close friends and talking to his family about the decision. His wife, Janet, stayed back at Washington State to allow their two kids to finish up school, so there wasn't a fear about moving them too many times. A conversation with one friend was what ultimately pushed Choate to Gainesville.

His friend told Choate to think about the decision as if he were a high school recruit. Taking out his relationship with Kugler, Choate thought about the opportunities at UTEP and Florida.

"That definitely factored into the decision in terms of looking at the big picture and making a decision that was going to be in the long-term interest of myself and my family," Choate said.

The decision on Muschamp's part was easy. Choate had working experience with Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease when the two were at Boise State and raved about the experience and knowledge Choate had with special teams.

But was there any hesitancy to call a coach that had just taken a new job at UTEP?

"No. This is Florida," Muschamp said.

The promise of getting a chance to coach on defense played into the decision, too. Choate worked with linebackers and the secondary during his time at Boise State, and he wanted a chance to still get to work with a position on that side of the ball. With D.J. Durkin being promoted to defensive coordinator, Muschamp hired Choate to serve as the outside linebackers coach to take some of the responsibility off Durkin's plate.

"That was a big piece for me," Choate said. "Had it been a special teams job with an offensive tie, I don't know that it would have been as appealing to me. But having the opportunity to learn this system defensively and coach under Will was very attractive."

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