Zach Arnett promoted to defensive coordinator for Aztecs


Abraham Jewett

SDSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett oversees a drill during a practice on Aug. 9.

by Aaron Tolentino, Assistant Sports Editor

San Diego State football will not have much adjusting to do with new defensive coordinator Zach Arnett.

Arnett, who has served as the Aztecs linebackers coach since 2014, was named to the position by head coach Rocky Long back in January, following the departure of Danny Gonzales to Arizona State University.

Arnett embodies what Long wants in a defensive coordinator, someone who has been in his system both as a player and a coach.

“He’s been in this system for a long time,” Long said. “He was a player in the same system for four years so he understands the system probably better than I do.”

Despite being given the title of defensive coordinator, Long comes up with the game plan, and Arnett said that his job is simply to make sure the players execute.

“Everyone knows coach Long is the defensive coordinator,” Arnett said. “He was generous enough to give me a title…he calls (the defense). He’s the guy who is generating the game plan.”

Arnett said he does not feel added mystique from his promotion, and that winning football games is all that is important to him and the rest of the coaching staff.

“If we win a whole bunch of games, great, the guys worked their butt off. If we don’t we obviously didn’t do a good enough job as coaches to get it done. It’s as simple as that,” Arnett said. “None of us coaches care about, ‘hey I got this title so if we do well it might mean this’. (If you’re) worrying about that stuff you’re worried about the wrong things, and you probably are not going to be a very good football team.”

Arnett’s journey to becoming one of Long’s main assistants originates from his days playing under Long at the University of New Mexico from 2005-08.

Arnett was a linebacker for the Lobos, and he thrived under Long’s defensive prowess.

In four seasons and 47 games, Arnett recorded 200 tackles, four sacks and six forced fumbles, which was the single-season Mountain West Conference record at the time. The six forced fumbles were all during his senior season, when he also served as the team captain.

Once Long was named SDSU’s head coach in 2011, Arnett’s joined him the same year as a defensive graduate assistant.

Arnett was promoted three years later to linebackers coach, and his linebackers totaled six all-Mountain West honors during that time.

With over 10 years working under Long’s tutelage as both a player and coach, Arnett brings a familiar mind to the Aztecs. Senior linebacker Ronley Lakalaka said he expects the defense to maintain the same aggression and intensity from years past.

“I think it’s going to be how’s it been,” Lakalaka said. “I don’t really expect defense to go downhill. I look at this as a positive for us with coach Arnett there. The only way we can go is up so I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Arnett will have his defense geared toward winning the line of scrimmage. He believes no matter the scheme, good defense, as well as offense, starts up front.

“Obviously, we play a style of offense that if you’re not good at the line of scrimmage, you’re not going to be very effective,” Arnett said. “On defense, no matter what scheme you run, if you’re not good at the line of scrimmage, you’re not going to be very good. So it all starts up front.”

This will be nothing new in Long’s system, which requires bodies on both sides of the ball stacking the line of scrimmage.

Arnett and his defense will face a tough test to kick off their season, when the team travels to Stanford University to take on the Cardinal on Aug. 31.

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