Coach Zach Arnett under microscope as Mississippi State hosts SELA


Mississippi State will forge ahead under unproven leadership Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs open their season against Southeastern Louisiana in Starkville, Miss.

Mike Leach, the former head man of the Bulldogs who passed away suddenly last fall and who will be honored at the game Saturday, had to field his share of questions about his Air Raid offense working in the big, bad SEC.

So perhaps it’s fitting that new coach Zach Arnett had to answer similar questions about his viability as a coach during his Week 1 press conference Monday.

The 36-year-old Arnett, who coached the Bulldogs to a 19-10 win in the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois in his first game taking over for Leach, sees his staff as a tremendous asset.

“There’s over 100 years of SEC experience on the current staff … quite a few former head coaches,” Arnett said. “We’ve got a lot of experience right in the building that provide a lot of support to me.”

Arnett will also be able to lean on a veteran team, led by senior quarterback Will Rogers, who has already thrown for 10,689 yards and 82 touchdowns in his career. Last fall, he led MSU to a 9-4 record, finishing with 3,974 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Defensively, a rebuilt secondary led by returnee Decamerion Richardson will have to contend with a Lions offense that boasts the top two quarterbacks in the Southland Conference.

Returnee Eli Sawyer is joined by Northwestern State transfer Zachary Clement to go along with three preseason all-league selections along the offensive line.

The Lions, who were second in the Southland with a 9-4 record last fall and are ranked No. 15 in FCS going into 2023, have the confidence of a veteran group.

“It’s not just one or two guys who are stepping up as leaders,” coach Frank Scelfo said. “We’re seeing our players who’ve been part of our program not only make themselves better, but helping those around them be better as well, which is a sign of great leadership.”

–Field Level Media

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