STARKVILLE • Mississippi State will have one of the more unique and innovative defensive schemes in college football this fall.
Head coach Mike Leach announced on Wednesday that Zach Arnett has been hired as the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, bringing along his 3-3-5 style to Starkville.
“Zach is one of the brightest defensive coaches in all of college football,” Leach said. “Having been mentored by Rocky Long during his successful time at San Diego State, Zach understands what it takes to build and run an elite defense.”
Arnett spent the past nine seasons working under Long at San Diego State, including the past two as the Aztecs’ defensive coordinator. The 33-year old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was recently hired as Syracuse’s new defensive coordinator on Jan. 11.
“I couldn’t pass up the chance to join an SEC program like Mississippi State,” Arnett said. “I am grateful to coach Leach and (athletic director) John Cohen for the opportunity to be a part of this first-class institution. Mississippi State has a history of great defenses.
“The staff coach Leach has assembled is tremendous, and I can’t wait to get down there and get to work.”
During his two years as a coordinator, Arnett’s defenses have led the country in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (89.6) and per carry (2.9) and only allowed opponents to eclipse 30 points twice.
This past fall, San Diego State ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing yards allowed (75.4) and scoring defense (12.7) and was fifth in total defense at 287.8 yards per game. The Aztecs also had 82 tackles for loss, 32 sacks, 18 interceptions and nine forced fumbles and recoveries.
Arnett played linebacker at New Mexico from 2005-08, which coincidentally is the Bulldogs’ opening opponent on Sept. 5.
While MSU has made Arnett’s hire official, MSU has not confirmed the other assistant coaching hires Leach has made of late.
Eric Mele is expected to be announced as the Bulldogs’ running backs coach, Darcel McBath as the cornerbacks coach, Jeffery Phelps as defensive line coach, Matt Brock as special teams coordinator, Dave Nichol as inside receivers coach, Steve Spurrier Jr. as outside receivers coach and Mason Miller as offensive line coach.
Tony Hughes, who worked as MSU’s tight ends coach last season and the Bulldogs’ safeties coach from 2009-15, is expected to be the only assistant coach retained from Joe Moorhead’s staff.