Zach Arnett doesn't care about narratives. He believes Mississippi State football can win big now

Mississippi Clarion Ledger
NASHVILLE — Mississippi State football’s Zach Arnett is the youngest coach in the SEC at 36. He’s the least experienced coach in the conference. And since he's a first-year coach, he’s likely the one fans would leave out when trying to name all 14 in the conference.
Yet when he spoke Tuesday in front of an audience hanging on his every word and ready to disseminate it at SEC Media Days, Arnett displayed the confidence of a veteran coach at the podium. Arnett’s lack of interest in lowly narratives around the program was evident, and he leaned on facts to show why he doesn’t care much for them.
Can Mississippi State contend in the expanded College Football Playoff field? Sure. With Dak Prescott at quarterback in 2014, the Bulldogs finished at No. 11 in the final AP poll.
Can Mississippi State win major recruiting battles and churn out professional talent? Yes. The Bulldogs have generated a pair of top 16 picks in each of the last two NFL drafts.
Can Mississippi State compete in the SEC West? Of course. MSU has won at least nine games four times since 2014 and has made 13 straight bowl appearances.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Arnett said. “There’s data to look back on and go, ‘Yeah, if you can recruit and put a team on the field at that high of a level and have that level of success in this league, you’re in the expanded field.’ ”
Despite questions surrounding the program and doubt filtering in – including a preseason media poll likely to land Mississippi State to finish last in the SEC West – Arnett is a first-year coach setting immense expectations.
It’s a testament to his approach as a coach: Just win. It’s a mentality that has clearly worn off on veteran players representing Mississippi State at SEC Media Days.
“Anything can happen here,” defensive lineman Jaden Crumedy said.
Arnett has been at Mississippi State since 2020 serving as Mike Leach’s defensive coordinator. The role essentially gave him head coaching experience as Leach let him control the defense. He even held weekly press conferences.
Arnett's name has been tossed in various coaching searches throughout his tenure, and it was evident he’d eventually run his own program.
The opportunity came sooner than expected, though, and it came under tragic circumstances with Leach’s death in December. However, rather than second-guessing decisions and just continuing what Leach was doing, Arnett took control.
“You want to honor coach Leach and respect everything he did, but at the same time this is coach Arnett’s team now,” quarterback Will Rogers said. “He’s not Coach Leach. He’s going to do things differently.”
Arnett’s inexperience as a head coach is met by a roster flooded with veterans. Offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay is implementing a new system, but he’s got a three-year starter under center. Matt Brock is taking control of the defense, but he has a pair of sixth-year linebackers in Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson.
Coming off a nine-win season, the Bulldogs aren’t buying into any doubt. Arnett says players are the most important part of a team, and his roster believes it can contend.
“When you line up against Mississippi State, you better pack a lunchbox and a hard hat,” Arnett said.
Perhaps the confidence is warranted. After all, as commissioner Greg Sankey joked during the introduction Tuesday that Arnett is the lone undefeated coach in the SEC.

Latest Player Notes

How Wisconsin athletes are benefiting from a unique NIL deal with Madison's Exact Sciences

Feb 17, 2024MJ Hammill entered what can be a scary time of an athlete’s life in mid-December.She went into the volleyball ...

Mike Griffith: Texas is Georgia's primary focus this offseason

February 16, 2024The Georgia Bulldogs face three SEC contenders on the road next season in Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss. According ...

Navigating a season that could see Texas play Georgia more than once

February 17, 2024The Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs will play in Austin on Oct. 19. It may not be the only time they ...

After some key departures from the team, Dykes got busy in the portal this offseason.

5:11 PM on Feb 16, 2024Biggest unanswered question: Who will emerge as the clear WR1?Before last season, Williams was the ...

How Louisville football coach Jeff Brohm balances transfer portal, high school recruiting

Louisville Courier JournalCollege football used to buzz on the first Wednesday in February, but Louisville football's office ...

Bob Asmussen | Illinois defense counting on linebackers to plug the gaps

College Football Reporter/ColumnistCHAMPAIGN — A new linebacker coach is in place at Illinois, and Archie McDaniel said he ...

Where Alabama’s quarterback group stands before spring practice

Alabama football’s offense is going to look different this season. Kalen DeBoer has replaced the retired Nick Saban as head ...

Why did AJ McCarron return to the St. Louis Battlehawks?

When AJ McCarron joined the resurrected XFL last year, the former Alabama All-American hadn’t played since suffering a knee ...

Colorado football self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations from Deion Sanders’ first year with Buffs

1/26/2024The Colorado football program has self-reported 11 minor NCAA violations since the hiring of head coach Deion Sanders ...

What Steve Young said about today’s NFL quarterbacks

By Jackson Payne Steve Young may have enjoyed a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling just ...
See More Player Notes