Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett spurns Syracuse for same position with Mississippi State


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Less than two weeks after accepting the defensive coordinator position at Syracuse, Zach Arnett is on the move again as Mississippi State announced Arnett as its new defensive coordinator on Wednesday. Arnett was formally announced as the Orange defensive coordinator on Jan. 11, but the move to join Leach’s new Bulldogs staff in the SEC was an opportunity the former San Diego State assistant felt he couldn’t let slip past him. 

“I couldn’t pass up the chance to join an SEC program like Mississippi State,” Arnett said in a school announcement. “I am grateful to Coach Leach and 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.”

Meanwhile, Syracuse released a statement of its own on Wednesday pointing out the obvious disappointment in the sudden transition. 

“We are disappointed that Zach Arnett has decided not to honor the commitment he made to Syracuse University,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said. “We will continue to work diligently to find the best defensive coach for our program.”

For new Mississippi State coach Leach, the hire of Arnett answers one of the biggest questions about the offensive-minded coach’s transition to the SEC West: what would he do defensively? Arnett is known for his 3-3-5 defensive alignment, which is a relatively uncommon scheme. It worked for Arnett at San Diego State, though, where his defense gave up just 12.7 points per game in 2019 in his second season serving as defensive coordinator. It was Arnett’s ninth season overall on staff at SDSU, all spent under head coach Rocky Long, who resigned earlier this month after a 10-3 season.

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