EUGENE — Marcus Arroyo was in a predictable location when Willie Taggart called about a job opportunity in Oregon.
The well-traveled assistant was on the tarmac as a flight attendant was asking passengers to shut off their portable electronic devices.
“My first response was, ‘I’ll call you back, I’ve got to buckle my seat belt. I’m actually taking off right now and I’ll call you back when I land,’” Arroyo recalled of the conversation with Oregon’s new head coach. “It was flattering first of all. It was surprising.”
Taggart had to reshuffle his coaching staff with the Ducks in his second month on the job after David Reaves was arrested for intoxicated driving Jan. 22 before resigning Feb. 3.
After grinding through the 2016 recruiting cycle, Taggart tabbed Arroyo to be the program’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach on Feb. 21.
Taggart said he wanted to work with Arroyo — who was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterbacks coach in 2014 — but he didn’t have the budget to add him to his staff at South Florida.
Now the 37-year-old Arroyo is mentoring Justin Herbert and three other underclassmen quarterbacks in the program.
“Justin and the young QBs need someone that understands what they’re going through,” Taggart said. “They need someone that has coached at the highest level and can help them grow.”
Arroyo played the position at San Jose State where he passed for 4,672 yards with 28 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
In order to be the starting quarterback at Oregon, Arroyo will demand better efficiency than he had with the Spartans, who were 20-29 during the four seasons he played (1998, 2000-02).
“He’s really just talked about getting to know us,” Herbert said of Arroyo. “He says he’s got to earn our trust, just like we have to earn his. The more time we spend with him, the better of a guy he gets. It’s just been a good time so far with him.”
Before getting on the field with his pupils for spring practice, Arroyo cut up the film from Herbert’s freshman season to study his performances in third-down situations, in the fourth quarter and when the Ducks were still competing in games they were trailing.
“What I saw on film coming in was a young man with great poise, some really good traits and intangibles,” Arroyo said. “I’m beginning to see more and more of what I thought I saw — great guy who wants to work and is really excited about the opportunity to continue to grow.”
Herbert provided some hope for a brighter future during last season’s 4-8 finish. The 6-foot-6 former Sheldon High standout passed for 1,936 yards with 19 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Through five spring practices, Herbert remains comfortably ahead of the pack in the competition to be Oregon’s starter when the season begins Sept. 2 against Southern Utah.
Redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen has shown some improvement and has been No. 2 in Arroyo’s rotation this week ahead of redshirt freshman Terry Wilson and true freshman Braxton Burmeister.
“Obviously coming out here, (Arroyo) can tell if you watched film or not,” Jonsen said. “So I think that’s one of the big things he really emphasizes.”
Arroyo isn’t the only member of the new staff who can develop quarterbacks. Taggart (Western Kentucky) and wide receivers coach Michael Johnson (Arizona State) also played the position in college.
“Coach Arroyo adds juice, he expects a lot from us. That’s what pushes us to come out here and do what we’re supposed to do every day,” Wilson said. “I’ve actually known coach Johnson since he coached me at a Semper Fi (football) camp out in Oklahoma City. I have a good feel for him. …
“They all have that quarterback vibe to them. I think that’s a pretty cool thing.”
Arroyo’s coaching journey began as the offensive coordinator at Prairie View A&M of the FCS in 2004. He returned to San Jose State to be a graduate assistant and then a full-time assistant for Dick Tomey.
At only 28, Arroyo was hired as Wyoming’s offensive coordinator before becoming California’s quarterbacks coach under Jeff Tedford. He was also an assistant at Southern Miss in 2013 and Oklahoma State in 2015-16.
Taggart met Arroyo in Tampa, Fla., where he became the Buccaneers’ interim play-caller after Tedford left the NFL because of health issues.
Arroyo said Oregon was an alluring landing spot.
“There’s no barrier to success here,” he said. “And then having a relationship with coach Taggart over the last couple years coming from the NFL was something we kept an ongoing relationship with.
“In our business it’s a small circle. When you find good people that you want to work with you stay in contact, and it worked out.”