Steve Sarkisian will remain on the job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator through Monday night’s title game, and as such no formal announcements on his new Texas staff are expected until Tuesday at the earliest.
But that doesn’t mean all is quiet on the western front.
Sources tell FootballScoop that Dan Quinn and Zach Arnett are candidates to be the next Texas defensive coordinator.
Quinn is, of course, the former Atlanta Falcons head coach, who has been unemployed since his Oct. 11 dismissal following a five and a half year run in Atlanta that saw the club reach the cusp of its first Super Bowl victory in 2016.
For two of those seasons, new Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian was Quinn’s offensive coordinator. Kyle Flood, expected to join Sarkisian in Austin, was also a member of Quinn’s Falcons staff 2017-18.
Quinn has spent most of his career at the NFL level, but did serve as Florida’s defensive coordinator under Will Muschamp for the 2011 and ’12 campaigns. The Gators finished eighth and fourth in yards per play allowed under Quinn’s direction.
In addition to Sarkisian and Flood, Quinn also worked with Bo Davis, who is a possibility to become Texas’s defensive line coach. Quinn was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive line coach in 2006, with Davis as his assistant D-line coach.Quinn is also connected to Blake Gideon through Muschamp, who coached Gideon at Texas and employed him at Florida and Auburn.
After leaving Florida, Quinn coordinated Seattle Seahawks defenses that won the Super Bowl in 2013 and came within a play of repeating in 2014.
Arnett, 34 years old with all of one year’s experience outside the Mountain West Conference, does not have the connections of Quinn, but his year as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator quickly won him admirers in the SEC. In fact, sources tell FootballScoop that new South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer flew to Starkville in an unsuccessful attempt to woo Arnett.
Mississippi State improved from 12th to fourth in the SEC in yards per play and from 12th to sixth in scoring. Arnett chopped 12 percent of State’s scoring average and 18 percent off their yards per play average (SEC games only) — while receiving little help from their offense. Mississippi State posted better numbers in 2020 while defending seven more plays per game than 2019.
A former New Mexico linebacker and San Diego State assistant, Arnett’s success at Mississippi State has helped legitimize Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 in the SEC. Iowa State has utilized a similar scheme to vault toward the top of the Big 12, and Baylor used a 3-down front to success in their run to the Big 12 title game in 2019.
“We hope it’s unique and difficult to prepare for,” Arnett said last year. “I do think you’re seeing more multiplicity, variation in schemes that teams are running, you are seeing more 3-3-5 looks, a lot more of it on third down than on first or second, but with the purification of the spread and teams going sideline to sideline, there’s been an effort by defenses to get more athletes on the field and guys that can run and cover space.”
Mississippi State ranked fourth in the SEC with 3.55 yards per carry allowed, a near yard-per-carry improvement from 2019. Mississippi State also improved from 12th to sixth in pass efficiency defense, a requisite to compete in the Big 12.
Arnett signed a 2-year contract upon his arrival in Mississippi State and agreed to a contract extension last month, but reports indicate Texas is not shy about paying up for Sarkisian’s staff.
On the topic of contracts, interest from Texas and others prompted Arkansas to offer Hogs defensive coordinator Barry Odom a significant contract extension.
No doubt about it, given all of the demand this off-season, ’tis a great year to be a defensive coordinator.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.