Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian completes his staff by hiring linebackers coach Jeff Choate

Former Montana State coach will also be the Horns’ co-defensive coordinator; Vanderbilt’s Jason Grooms hired as chief of staff

Former Montana State head coach Jeff Choate will coach linebackers at Texas, completing Steve Sarkisian's initial Longhorns coaching staff. Choate is one of two UT assistants who have previously been head coaches.

It had been known for days, but Texas formally announced on Thursday the hiring of Montana State coach Jeff Choate to be the Longhorns’ new co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

Choate’s hiring is the final piece of coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff. The school also announced the hiring of multiple support staff members, including Vanderbilt's Jason Grooms to be Sarkisian’s chief of staff. 

In a weekend Zoom call with reporters, Choate called leaving FCS-level Montana State for Texas a “slam dunk” move professionally. He guided the school to back-to-back playoff appearances and the 2019 FCS semifinals. 

Choate, 50, told Montana State reporters that he was eager to have an on-field coaching role again. He’ll work extensively with co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, who came to UT from Washington.

“Jeff is an awesome final piece to an assistant coaching staff that, as I’ve said before, I’ll put up against anyone in the country,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “When you watch the players he’s coached, they play hard, are fundamentally sound and he clearly does an exceptional job with them.”

By hiring Choate, Texas now has two assistants that have been head coaches previously and a third (running backs coach Stan Drayton) on the cusp of being a head coach himself.

“The camaraderie among our coaching staff is already strong,” Sarkisian said. “We’re off to a good start recruiting. I like where we’re headed from a football standpoint and the players are understanding the expectations and getting on the same page as well. All in all, I feel really good about where we are at this point.”

Sarkisian is also building out his behind-the-scenes staff by hiring Grooms and four athletic staff members to work in strength and conditioning.

Grooms spent the last seven seasons at Vanderbilt, first as the director of football operations and later rising to assistant athletic director. Nowadays, a football chief of staff can act as a go-between with administrators and help oversee football marketing and recruiting. 

Cory Castro, Isaiah Gonzalez and Markus James all spent at least the last four seasons at California working with the Torre Becton, who is now UT’s head strength coach. Joe Vaughn was the assistant strength coach at Kansas State last season. 

“Those guys are already putting in the work with the team in off-season workouts and will play a critical role in our success as a program,” Sarkisian said.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.