Today marked the first time we’ve been able to speak with Huskies defensive line coach and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate since he was named the new head coach at Montana State. Choate spoke about that, as well as a few other interesting topics. That conversation is below:
(On how the Montana State job came together) “It all started in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio (laughs). It was kind of interesting, something I’ve tried to do for a while. Situations and circumstances just weren’t the right fit, and this was one that was kind of a slam dunk, I think, in terms of the situation, where it was at, what they were looking for in their next head coach and the timing of it. So it was an awesome opportunity for me.”
(What made you want to continue coaching here through the bowl game?) “I love these kids, man. That’s what I told them today. I was telling Tani (Tupou), ‘was it important for you to win your senior night? Jarett (Finau), important for you to win your senior night?’ This is my senior night. I get to go out with you guys, and let’s go do it right. Also just the relationship I have with the guys on staff here. I’ve worked with them for eight years now, six at Boise and two here, and just go do it one more time with them. So it’ll be fun.”
(You left Boise for WSU to diversify your experience – think that helped?) “I think it really did. I’m not sure that had I not left Boise, these opportunities would have been presented to me here at Montana State. That was a little bit of a calculated risk in terms of moving around, leaving a sure thing there, great people, good kids. But I needed to do some other things, I think, that were going to be maybe a little bit more attractive to administrators and position myself for an opportunity like this.”
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(On whether his departure and the firing of receivers coach Brent Pease reinforces the rollercoaster nature of the profession) “It’s a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business and I get that, and this is an exciting time there, but I also know I’ve got to produce and that’s just the nature of it. So I feel for Brent in that situation, but obviously excited for the opportunity that we have in front of us with our family and that team over there.”
(What are these next couple weeks going to be like with double-duty?) “It was like vacation today. These guys know the drill. It was fun to just get out there and coach them. I think last week I wasn’t able to be here because I was over there, and I think that was a little bit awkward for them, and today it was just routine, just go out there and build skill and hold each other to a high standard, and have fun doing it. So it was a good day.”
(On how his players at UW took the news of him leaving) “I actually got a chance to sit down and tell them face to face. It was a nice deal because I was over here last Friday. So I found out about 4:30, and a lot of the guys were around, so they came down and we talked a little bit. I could tell (there was) a little disappointment. I think that over the course of the week, they had kind of gone from that a little bit to excited that we get to do this, do the bowl game together, and genuinely excited for me and my family for an opportunity to do something that I wanted to do with my career.”
(You said you’ve always wanted to work in the Big Sky …) “Grew up trotting over the White Pine Scenic Drive to go watch the Kamiah Kid (Idaho quarterback Ken Hobart) sling it around the dome. Just a great brand of football, a great league, really, really good coaches and some unbelievable players that have come out of that league. So I’m excited to be a part of that.”
(Feel like Montana State is in a good position?) “There’s obviously some things that have got to improve, and that’s why there was a change made. But over time, that place has been committed, especially the last 10 years, to being highly competitive in that league and nationally.”
(On the state of the program now) “I think there was still really even in Week 13, 14 I guess it was last year … there still was that feeling out process, for lack of a better way of saying it. So just the heavy lifting, a lot of it had been done this year, in terms of the culture that we wanted to implement and how we practice and how we go to work every day. So those things were really in place. I think a lot of it, the credit has to go to not just Coach Petersen and his vision for what’s going on, but Coach Socha and the work that he’s done in the weight room with his staff to get these guys really disciplined and understanding the work ethic and what it takes to compete at a high level. I said before the season, if we end up at 7-5, 6-6 and get a chance to play in a bowl game, that’s a really good year for the schedule that we had to play and some of the things that we lost. If we can take this thing out on a high note, I know this thing is positioned for tremendous things in the future.
(On young guys who are starting to emerge) “I think Shane Bowman is a guy who’s really started to kind of come along really through maybe the last two weeks of the season and into the bowl practices. So far, I’ve really liked what he’s done. Ricky McCoy flashed a little bit today – that d-line’s going to be fun to watch. That’s one of the things I’m like … I’m watching those guys today going, ‘man, I don’t know about this. I’d love to coach these guys for another couple years.’ There’s some guys that I think they understand what it takes to be good, and there’s a standard that’s been established in that room, and they’ve really worked for it every day. They take pride in it.”
(On Benning Potoa’e’s progression) “He had the first interception for a buck that I can remember in any practice or game situation. Hau (Kikaha) dropped a couple last year, so that happened today, so that’s promising for the future for him. I think he’s got a really high ceiling. Great kid. We’re excited about his future, I know they are. It’ll be fun to watch him.”
(On where UW stands in the big picture) “I can speak to it maybe from my perspective, and I mean this – I’ve told recruits this all year – this thing is on the launching pad. We’re just starting to ignite this thing, and I think you can see that with the type of recruits that we’re attracting, and it’s a special place. I feel really fortunate to have had an opportunity to be here for a short time, but I know that one of the things we talked about when I came here was, Coach Pete said ‘there’s going to be some heavy lifting, and I want you to help me out for a couple years here.’ I feel very fortunate to have been a part of that, and like I told these guys today, I said you guys today, I said ‘(when) you guys put that ring on your finger, one of those little diamonds will be mine.’ We’re looking forward to them doing great things.”