Syracuse football hires Zach Arnett as defensive coordinator

Orange Nation

Courtesy: San Diego State Athletics


Syracuse head football coach Dino Babers announced the hiring of Zach Arnett as defensive coordinator on Saturday. One of the brightest, young defensive coaches in the college ranks, Arnett joins the Orange after most recently serving as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at San Diego State from 2018-19.

“Zach is a very talented coach,” Babers said. “He learned under a great defensive mind in Rocky Long at San Diego State and excelled when he got the opportunity to run the defense there. His qualities, both as a person and as a professional, are an excellent fit for our program. I’m excited to welcome Zach, his wife, Emily, and their children, Case and Collins, to Syracuse.”

“My family and I would like thank Coach Babers for this tremendous opportunity,” Arnett said. “He’s someone I have the utmost respect for and his philosophy of developing the whole student-athlete – not just the football player – is one I believe in strongly. Syracuse is an outstanding place with a great football tradition. I’m excited to be part of it. I can’t wait to get to Central New York and get started.”

Arnett, who has spent his entire coaching career studying under Long, led a 2019 San Diego State defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in seven categories. The Aztecs finished second in rushing defense (75.4 ypg), third in scoring defense (12.7 ppg), fourth in interceptions (18), fourth in first downs allowed (198), sixth in total defense (287.8 ypg), sixth in passing efficiency defense (110.25) and eighth in turnovers gained (27).

The performance of Arnett’s unit helped the Aztecs to a 10-3 record and marked the continuation of the success San Diego State enjoyed during his first season running the defense. The 2018 Aztecs ranked seventh in the country against the run (103.8 ypg), 13th in first downs allowed (216) and 21st in total defense (334.6 ypg).

Prior to being elevated to defensive coordinator, Arnett was San Diego State’s linebackers coach from 2014-17. He also spent three years (2011-13) at SDSU as a defensive graduate assistant.

During Arnett’s nine seasons on the staff, the Aztecs posted a combined 81-38 (.681) record, won three Mountain West Conference championships and played in a bowl game every year – winning four of them. He mentored seven all-conference linebackers, including Kyahva Tezino, who was an All-Mountain West First Team selection in 2018 and 2019. Arnett also guided the career of All-American and three-time All-Mountain West choice Calvin Munson, who finished sixth in SDSU history with 301 tackles.

Before becoming a coach, Arnett played linebacker for four seasons (2005-08) at the University of New Mexico. He logged 200 career tackles and tied for the FBS lead with six forced fumbles as a senior captain in 2008. Arnett helped the Lobos to 25 wins as a player and consecutive bowl appearances in 2006 and 2007. He also thrived in the classroom. Arnett was a four-time academic all-conference selection and earned 2008 CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honors.

A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Arnett attended La Cueva High School, where he was a two-sport standout in football and baseball. He originally signed to play baseball at New Mexico before earning a football scholarship the summer prior the start of his true freshman season.

Arnett graduated from New Mexico in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in history and minor in political science.

He and his wife, Emily, have one son, Case, and a daughter, Collins.


Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.

Alma Mater: New Mexico ‘09

Family: wife, Emily; son, Case; daughter, Collins


2011-13: San Diego State – Graduate Assistant (Defense)

2014-17: San Diego State – Linebackers

2018-19: San Diego State – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

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