With Andy Avalos returning home to take over as Boise State Broncos head coach, Mario Cristobal will be hiring his third defensive coordinator ahead of his fourth season as Oregon head coach.
Less than a week after the move became official, the hiring process has officially begun.
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett reportedly interviewed for the vacant Oregon defensive coordinator position Monday, January 11th according to Bulldog Banter, and confirmed by ScoopDuck's Justin Hopkins. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman also confirmed the interview took place.
Arnett served as San Diego State's defensive coordinator for two seasons from 2018 to 2019 before joining Mike Leach's staff at Mississippi State. His 3-3-5 defense, a scheme that gave Oregon fits in its Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State, ranked above average in multiple categories in the SEC despite numerous injuries and opt-outs: 6th in points allowed per game (28.3), 4th in yards allowed per game (380.3), 4th in rushing yards allowed (125.3), 6th in sacks (25), 5th in interceptions (11), and 6th in fumble recoveries (7).
Remember, Cristobal hired Andy Avalos partially because his scheme gave the Ducks fits in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl in Cristobal's first game as head coach.
Arnett's experience as Aztecs defensive coordinator gives him West Coast ties that will be beneficial for Oregon while recruiting out of California.
However, Oregon is not the only school interested in the Bulldogs coordinator. LSU and Texas have both been mentioned as other teams with eyes on Arnett, with the Tigers interviewing Arnett on Tuesday for their defensive coordinating position per The Athletic's Bruce Feldman and Brody Miller but he's not expected to become LSU's new coordinator.
If Arnett brings over a 3-3-5 scheme to Oregon, it can help get its talented secondary and linebacker depth on the field more while mitigating the lack of defensive line depth, especially after Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu have declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Mississippi State inked Arnett to a three-year extension in December worth north of $1 million annually in December per Ben Portnoy of The Dispatch. Andy Avalos' base salary was $815,000 and was due to make $865,000 in 2021 as Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator per The Oregonian.
Jim Leavvit originally signed an extension with Oregon prior to the 2018 season that would pay him $1.7 million annually before mutually parting ways after that year with a buyout worth up to $2.5 million.