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Zach Arnett set to be Miss State head coach after Leach death

Zach Arnett set to be Miss State head coach after Leach death
Mississippi State defensive coordinator and interim head coach Zach Arnett is said to be hired as the Bulldogs’ next head coach following the tragic death of Mike Leach. (Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

STARKVILLE, Miss. (BVM) – Following the tragic and sudden death of head football coach Mike Leach on Monday, Mississippi State University reportedly made the decision to hire interim head coach Zach Arnett as the full-time replacement on Wednesday. Arnett has been the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator since 2020.

According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the program has agreed to terms with Arnett and he is expected to receive a four-year contract though nothing official had been signed as of writing. Thamel added that “the move was made quickly to stabilize the program and support the players after the sudden death of coach Mike Leach.”

In just three seasons with Mississippi State, Arnett has established himself as one of the better coordinators in the SEC. With a 3-3-5 base defense, Arnett helped the Bulldogs finish No. 39 in the country in total defense as well as No. 36 in passing defense, No. 52 in red zone defense and No. 55 in rushing defense.

Prior to his stop in Starkville, Arnett spent eight seasons with San Diego State University. After serving as an assistant coach beginning in 2011, Arnett was promoted to the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator in 2018. Before the season, Arnett ranked among the top 15 FBS defensive coordinators with a minimum of four years of experience since 2018 in numerous categories including rushing yards allowed per season (4th – 1,298.3), rushing touchdowns allowed per season (11th – 12.8), total touchdowns allowed per season (13th – 30.5), rushing yards allowed per game (3rd – 104.7), yards per play allowed per game (12th – 5.2), points per play allowed per game (11th – 0.3), scoring percentage allowed (12th – 30.5), touchdown percentage allowed (11th – 21.1) and points per possession allowed (12th – 1.6), among others.

With the death of Leach, Arnett was given the interim tag for the Bulldogs’  ReliaQuest Bowl game against the University of Illinois on Jan. 2. Now, it appears that Arnett will get his first opportunity as a full-time head coach leading Mississippi State.

Given the success that Arnett has shown as a coordinator in recent years, Bulldogs’ fans will be eager to see how he does during his first game as head coach in January. While Arnett will be taking over the job due to the tragic loss of one of his mentors, he has proven he is more than prepared for the opportunity.