Mississippi State football promotes defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to Head Coach
Starkville, Mississippi - Mississippi State athletics has appointed defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to take over the late Mike Leach's role as the head coach for the Bulldogs' football program.
Arnett will succeed Leach as the permanent Mississippi State head football coach on a four-year contract, the maximum amount allowed by Mississippi state law.
"No one can ever replace Coach Leach and the impact he had on MSU and all of college football," Arnett said in a statement. "This team is full of strong, resilient young men and we are committed to continuing to build on the foundation Coach Leach laid and continue to honor his legacy."
During Leach's tenure with Mississippi State, Arnett led the Bulldogs' defensive unit to a top five finish in the SEC in total defense each of the last three years as defensive coordinator.
This year, the Bulldogs placed fifth in the conference in pass defense (206.8 yards per game) and second in turnovers gained (22).
Under Arnett, the Mississippi State defense boasted two of the top tacklers in the SEC with Nathaniel Watson and Jett Johnson, and one of the nation's best cornerbacks in Emmanuel Forbes.
Forbes earned a number of All-American honors for his breakout performance this year that included breaking the FBS career record for pick-sixes (6), adding three this season.
Arnett (36) is set to make his debut as head coach on January 2 when Mississippi State meets Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa. He will become the third-youngest active head coach in the FBS, behind 32-year-old Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham and 35-year-old South Alabama coach Kane Wommack.
Cover photo: SEAN GARDNER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP