‘Who’s going to replicate Mike Leach?’: Zach Arnett is doing

STARKVILLE, Miss.– The guidance Mike Leach showed Zach Arnett throughout peaceful moments and late-night telephone call was important. Given, Arnett couldn’t constantly inform where a conversation with his boss was heading– his degree in history and small in government was available in useful in some cases– however there was typically a nugget of wisdom to be discovered in there someplace if he stuck with Leach long enough.Which got Arnett believing one afternoon last month. The Mississippi State head coach turned up from a seat in his workplace and walked over to his desk. He pulled open the leading right drawer, clutched a handout Leach provided the personnel and waved it around.Once or twice a year, he stated, they ‘d read

through Leach’s curated ideas on coaching. There’s a bit about coaches failing players instead of players stopping working coaches.”What I really like about them, “Arnett stated,” is they force you as a coach to turn the mirror onto yourself.”When he first read the handout, soon after being employed as Leach’s protective organizer in 2020, it was as if he ‘d been struck by lightning. Coaches are notorious for purchasing up volumes of books on management, Arnett stated, and Leach found a method to boil it down to four pages of bullet points.Editor’s Picks 2 Associated Arnett turned it over in his hands and smiled purposefully.

He didn’t want to offer

away specific quotations; he believes the insights within are so important. “It’s a lifetime of good sense knowledge,”he said.And it’s directing him on this brand-new, unexpected journey, as the 36-year-old balances honoring a football legend and distinctive character with creating his own identity.The flowers are long gone, however other remembrances of Leach remain in Starkville. The pirate flags that wave on front porches. The various twists on the Jolly

Roger, some with swords instead of crossbones. It ends up you can put an eye patch on pretty much anything; it’s become another way of saying,” In caring memory.”When players leave a morning weight-lifting session last month, they do so using black workout t-shirts with “Swing your sword “emblazoned throughout the front.A preferred expression of Leach’s rings in Arnett’s ears:”Never ever take counsel of your fears. Stress your strengths.”Some coaches might fear replacing a legend. Some, particularly first-time coaches like Arnett, may feel obliged to keep everything exactly the very same.”Who’s going to duplicate Mike Leach?”he asked.”There’s no possibility in hell.” Mike Leach’s existence is still felt in the football program from players to coaches. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara ARNETT ACKNOWLEDGED THE irony. A

novice head coach taking over for an icon, and that icon, who he invested the past 3 years working for as his protective planner, didn’t really want him as his very first choice.No, Leach had his sights set on a lesser-known football innovator he had actually appreciated from afar: Rocky Long, the 73-year-old former head coach who created the 3-3-5 stack defense.

The only factor Arnett got the task, he says, is due to the fact that “Coach Long decided this wasn’t for him.”That, and Arnett was the next best thing. He played linebacker for Long at New Mexico, acquiring 200 career takes on and earning a spot on the scholastic all-conference group four times. He then got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant on Long’s staff, working his method up to protective coordinator. He ‘d in fact just left San Diego State to take the DC task at Syracuse when Leach called.It was unanticipated and awkward evacuating after just a couple of weeks in New york city, but the opportunity was too best to refuse. Not only could he gain from Leach when he was around, he could gain from the times when he wasn’t. Because Leach was too hectic calling plays and running quarterback meetings to fuss over the defense, managing that side of the ball was left practically entirely to him.Arnett was a nominee for the Broyles Award as the country’s top assistant each of his very first two seasons at State. His defenses quit the fourth fewest backyards in the SEC from 2020 to 2022. He was likewise a member of the AFCA 35 Under 35 Coaches Leadership Institute.

“There was an incredible quantity of flexibility,”Arnett said of working under Leach.”But it was extremely instructional from the way he sees the game, his capability to streamline the game. I think coaches are notorious for our ability to overcomplicate stuff. You turn football into a calculus problem for

your players, and usually that appears on film. You got a lot of guys not simply reacting and playing quickly. You can see the wheels spinning, and he’s the specific opposite of that. “Arnett summarize the beauty of the Air Raid.” Simply put: Run where they ain’t, try to find open area,”he stated, chuckling.”That’s pretty damned innovative.”What Arnett appreciated most about Leach and Long– aside from their ability to simplify their respective schemes– was their willingness to defy convention.Some coaches say you should not spread the field with four receivers and throw the ball 70 times a game. It’s not balanced. Well, Leach attempted to ask what was balanced about not getting everybody the football? He ended up persuading a generation of coaches like Lincoln Riley and Sonny Dykes to see it his way.It might have been appealing to work with among Leach’s lots of previous assistants and keep the offense as is, however Arnett wanted to do things differently.”And I do not believe [Leach] would necessarily have an issue with that,”he said,”due to the fact that he would desire me to run a program that’s in the vision that I view as best suitable for its future. “Mississippi State senior deputy athletic director for compliance Bracky Brett, who was interim advertisement when Leach passed away, says he never ever hesitated handing over the reins to Arnett. When he offered him the job on a permanent basis, he told him,”Overall control of the program is on you. “Brett admired how Arnett was able to lead the team through such a challenging time– how he was a supporting force, holding the locker space and the roster together.”

I always seemed like if we had not made the relocation that we made, it would’ve cost us probably some kids on signing day and some kids in the portal,”Brett stated. “It would’ve set this football program back two years.” Three weeks after Arnett and Mississippi State consented to a four-year,$ 12 million agreement, the Bulldogs beat Illinois in the Reliaquest Bowl, originating from behind with 16 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The scene on the field in Tampa that day boggled the mind, Brett says, a psychological release. play 0:35 Will Rogers celebrates bowl win by waving flag in memory of Mike Leach Following Mississippi State’s bowl win, Will Rogers waves the”

Mike” flag in memory of late coach Mike Leach.And, looking back, Brett appreciated how Arnett waited for what followed. After he ‘d finished what Leach had actually begun and they ‘d returned house, Arnett went to work constructing the program his way. He scrapped the traditional Air Raid and revamped the whole offensive training personnel.

Leach’s offense and Leach’s guys were unexpectedly gone.Brett is clear:”Mike will be kept in mind, loved and revered here a long period of time. We’re not going to forget him in any shape, kind or fashion.” However, he stated, Arnett can’t coach with a ghost examining his shoulder.”You’ve got to make the program yours,”Brett says.”If you’re gon na be the head coach and your income and your income depends on winning, you have actually got to do what you think is best to win. And he’s brought in some individuals on his staff that I believe people may question. However I understand one thing: They’re damn good football coaches” Will Rogers is still adjusting to Mississippi State’s new offense. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara KEVIN BARBAY LEANED forward in his chair ignoring the practice fields and looked down at his hands, searching for the right words.” You understand, it’s not pressure,”he stated,”however I do understand the situations of being available in and changing the legend of Mike Leach. “A couple of months ago, Barbay was the offensive planner at Appalachian State. He had no connection to Leach, to Arnett, to Mississippi State,to the Air Raid. None of it. He got his start as a graduate assistant at Baylor where they ran

the cleverly called Bear Raid, and even then Barbay was dealing with the defensive side of the ball at the time.Barbay is a previous high school coach, a Texas local, who played quarterback for Doug Williams at Grambling State and graduated from Lamar. So to be the individual at 40 years old asked to step in and revamp an offense that’s so associated with Leach was, well, something. “I ‘d be lying if I didn’t tell you that initially when Coach [Arnett] called me that it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, wow. That’s gon na be a task, replacing Mike Leach, ‘”Barbay said.”But it does help me a little bit simply talking to myself about,’You’re changing a legend, however you are not that legend. And do not try to be who you’re not.'”Barbay’s offense will still feature a lot of four-receiver sets and plenty of passing. But it will also feature the running back and play-action and a position that’s been missing the past 3 seasons: tight end.Time will inform

how efficient the offense will be, but it assures to look more diverse than Leach’s Air Raid. “Truly right now it has to do with identifying what our guys succeed and after that simply putting those people in the best situations and in the ideal formations,” Barbay stated.” Right now it’s all discovery.”Barbay chuckled as he recited the depth chart. It’s like an island of misfit toys, he states. “We need to be patient.

“Take the lack of tight ends– as in zero on the lineup he acquired. This spring, they selected a protective lineman, a receiver and a linebacker to check out at the position. And they headed out and signed a set of transfer tight ends in Geor’quarius Spivey from TCU and Ryland Goede from Georgia, who will arrive in the summer.The good news is Barbay does not have to wonder who his quarterback will be. Will Rogers returns with 33 career begins under his belt. He’s currently the SEC career completions leader(1,159)and holds school records for career passing backyards (10,689 )and profession death goals(

82). Rogers is going to be asked to throw the ball more downfield and move around the pocket more this coming season. Barbay states he’ll have more options to pull the ball and run as well. “Will’s most significant characteristic is he is among the most competitive people,” Barbay stated.” In a brief amount of time, he has shown to me how competitive he is. He dislikes losing, he dislikes incompletions. So, to me, it does not really matter what you ask him to do, he’s gon na

best it.”So far, Rogers mores than happy with the offense, however it’s been an adjustment. The Air Raid is all he’s known since high school. And no one on the group was closer to Leach than him. He was more than a coach. He was a friend.”I’ve simply kinda just put my head down and gone to work,”he said.

“I haven’t truly thought about it too much, you understand? On my own time I’ll consider it from time to time, but I think the competitor in me, I’m always just trying to put this team in the very best position

to win and simply continue to compete and continue to try and get better every day. “With his experience and production, he might have left after last season by means of the transfer website and had plenty of suitors. There are more than a few Leach disciples out there who might utilize a quarterback to run

the Air Raid.Rogers, who grew up two hours from Starkville, remained.” A great deal of individuals wan na state a lot of various things and start reports and things like that, “he stated.”But for me, I was simply wishing to finish it out with a few of the guys that we’ve been here with for 4 years, just type of surface what we began here at Mississippi State.” Mississippi State is a program that’s entering a different instructions under Arnett. Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports DON’T EXPECT ARNETT to offer a carefully crafted thesis on which Halloween candy is best or what college mascot would win a WWE style Royal Rumble. He may have a few interesting theories on life (regional or extraterrestrial), however so far he’s keeping them to himself.Mike Leach, Zach Arnett is not.

Check back in 25 years from now, but it’s

hard to imagine Arnett ending up being the quixotic, quotable character that his predecessor was. His personality is more no-nonsense. Included in Mississippi State president Mark Keenum’s declaration announcing Arnett’s hire was this informing line:”He brings terrific drive and strength to the task.”

Mississippi State is a program that’s entering a different direction, an instructions that fits Starkville’s character as a working class town in rural Mississippi. The university was founded in large part as an agricultural school. Arnett’s home sits on 5 acres. He has chickens. Horses graze on the residential or commercial property. He cuts his own yard– or he did back when he was an organizer and had the time.Brett enjoys the fact that his head coach owns a zero-turn lawn mower. He summed up his approach in a single phrase: “Blue collar.””I desire us to appear like a tough, hard-nosed football team,”Arnett said,”who still does all the important things that good football teams do: You play tidy football; you do not turn the ball over; hopefully, you produce takeaways; you produce explosive plays on offense; you restrict ’em on defense; you win the field position fight on special teams; all that stuff. However just simply, I would hope when you turn on the movie you see a team who looks like they play the game with some energy and some enjoyment.” Tony Hughes, who has coached at Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Jackson State, said Mississippi State has a credibility for drawing in fighters, for having a chip on its shoulder, for playing downright upset.

“Zach is that, but from New Mexico” Hughes said.Arnett matured in Albuquerque ignoring the Sandia-Manzano Mountains. In addition to linebacker

, he played some fullback back then, too. So he’s not scared of taking or delivering a big hit.”That’s what he believes in and that’s what he likes,”Hughes stated. “I want a football team that exhibits that character, since that is the only possibility you have to win and be successful here.”States Rogers:”I think we’re gon na be an actually hard team to beat, and simply a hard group in general come fall.” Arnett may not look or sound anything like Leach, however he shares an old-school mentality that’s valued here. In truth, Rogers stated, he’s a little more persistent about conferences beginning on time. And when they do, “It’s all ball from there.”He may not walk to campus routinely like Leach did, but don’t be surprised

if you see Arnett on the side of the road by mishap.

He just recently bought a 1960 Ford F-100, which quickly broke down on him throughout a visit to school with his better half and kids.A good samaritan helped out and provided him a dive. Prior to he left, the complete stranger said,”I got ta ask: Are you the head football coach at Mississippi State?” That will not be a question for much longer.

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