BOZEMAN — As an assistant coach at Washington, Jeff Choate spent time on the front lines of teaching and implementing safety-first tackling. Now Choate is applying those practices as Montana State’s first-year head coach.
During ongoing spring drills, the Bobcats spend portions of practice conducting helmetless, rugby-inspired tackling. Players are taught to use shoulder leverage — not their heads — in an effort to reduce the risk of concussions and head trauma.
“It’s about a 2- to 3-yard drill,” Choate explained after practice last Friday. “There’s not a lot of contact involved and there doesn’t need to be. We don’t need to beat these guys up to have good technique and coach good fundamentals and protect our players.
Choate is on an advisory board for Atavus Rugby, a Seattle-based consulting firm that champions safety and efficiency in tackling. Last year, when Choate was the special teams coordinator and defensive line coach at Washington, Atavus tabbed the Huskies as one of its first Division I football partners.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll also gained notoriety two years ago for implementing the “Hawk Tackle” — a shoulders-first approach to bringing down ball-carriers. Coincidence or not, the Seahawks’ defense has been one of the best in the NFL in recent seasons.
Atavus crunches numbers to provide its clients with data to show which rugby-style techniques are the most efficient.