Jeff Choate was out recruiting, or otherwise preparing for his next season as an assistant coach at Florida, when his old boss gave him a call.
Chris Petersen’s hire at Washington was already official, but Choate didn’t know if there would be room for him on Petersen’s first staff at UW.
“I really didn’t anticipate this happening,” said Choate, who will coach defensive linemen and coordinate special teams at UW. “I kind of figured Pete was going to pick everybody up and come on over here.”
For the most part, he did, bringing six assistants with him from Boise State’s 2013 coaching staff. But in Choate’s case, past experience was worth just as much: The two worked together for six years at Boise State, from 2006-11, before Choate left to coach linebackers at Washington State.
“Chris called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re putting the band back together. I want you to think about it,’ ” said Choate, a native of St. Maries, Idaho. “The more I thought about it, these guys are like brothers to me. I think he’s the best there is.”
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, who coached at BSU the last two seasons, received a similar call after Petersen took the job.
“I said ‘Coach, when do you want me up there? I’m in,’ ” Lake said. “Very easy decision.”
Petersen’s first staff at Washington is nothing if not familiar: With the exception of tight ends coach Jordan Paopao, the only member of Steve Sarkisian’s staff to be retained, all of Petersen’s assistants have coached under him before.
Only three – Paopao, Choate and receivers coach Brent Pease – weren’t at Boise State last season. All nine of UW’s new assistant coaches were made available to media for the first time Tuesday.
The familiarity is important, new defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said, because “(you) probably see them more than your family during the football season. So it’s really awesome that you can go to work doing something you really love and have passion for, and then doing it with guys you like and consider friends, not just guys you work with.”
Kwiatkowski replaces Justin Wilcox, who is also a former Boise State defensive coordinator. Kwiatkowski’s BSU pedigree runs a little deeper: He graduated from the school in 1990 and played defensive line for the Broncs from 1984-87.
He was a member of Petersen’s staff from the beginning of Peterson’s tenure in 2006, and was also a BSU assistant from 1988-96.
But his ties to Petersen meant more than his ties to Boise.
“At the end of the day it was” an easy decision, Kwiatkowski said, “just because of the relationship I have with Coach Petersen. You spend eight years with a guy, all the other assistants on the staff. Boise being my alma mater, that’s a great place. But at the end of the day, it comes back to who I work for and who I work with.”
Of the six coaches transplanted from Boise, five stayed at the school through the Broncos’ appearance in the Hawaii Bowl. New running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Keith Bhonapha is the only one who didn’t. He headed straight to UW with Petersen to get a jump-start on recruiting the 2014 class, which will be signed the first week of February.
Pease was fired this season as offensive coordinator at Florida – he worked under Petersen from 2006-11 – and Choate had spent a year at Florida after first leaving WSU for the defensive coordinator job at UTEP, then leaving for Florida when coach Will Muschamp offered him a job in late spring.
• What kind of defense will the Huskies run under Kwiatkowski? It might look similar to what Wilcox implemented during the past two seasons, and will certainly look similar to what Boise State has been doing.
“Four-man front, (and) be able to jump into an odd(-man front),” Kwiatkowski said. “Similar to what Justin did here. Depending on who you play or what our guys do best, we’re going to mold it to that. Same thing with the coverage.”
• New offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said he isn’t beholden to one particular style of offense, but that it’s obvious Sarkisian and his staff recruited players who could play up-tempo.
“We’re going to look at it and put our players in the best positions,” said Smith, who played quarterback at Oregon State and was Petersen’s quarterbacks coach the past two years at Boise State.
“We haven’t spelled out exactly how it’s going to turn out, what we’re going to do, but there’s definitely some athletes and we’re going to get the ball in space and apply it.”
• Since Bhonapha has been here with Petersen from day one, he has had time to decide where he’s going to live, unlike most other coaches on the staff.
He’s staying close to campus.
“A mile away, on Montlake Boulevard,” he said, smiling. “It’s easy; my wife likes the place. This profession, if your wife likes it, you go with it.”christian.caple@ thenewstribune.com