ATLANTA — Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was pleased to see the spring progress in the move of defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to coaching the safeties.
An original Leach hire at Mississippi State, Arnett coached linebackers in his first two seasons, the same position he coached at San Diego State from 2014-2019. He was defensive coordinator his last two seasons at San Diego State.
“It’s starting to blend together. Him being at safety is good because that’s a position with a lot of communication,” Leach said.
Leach rewarded Arnett with a three-year contract in late June reportedly worth $3.9 million.
The Bulldogs lost starting DOG safety Fred Peters but return free safety Collin Duncan and other experience.
They also add West Virginia transfer Jackie Matthews.
Rebuilding at wide receiver
The Bulldogs didn’t know who their go-to receiver would be in August camp of 2021.
That turned out to be Cal transfer Makai Polk.
Leach will be looking for someone else to emerge this season.
“We’re still rebuilding there, still kind of raw. We have some explosive guys, a combination of older guys and really young guys,” Leach said.
The leading returning pass-catcher among the wide receivers is slot Jaden Walley, who had 55 catches for 628 yards and six touchdowns.
Behind Polk’s 105 catches last year, running backs Woody Marks and Dillon Johnson were next with 83 catches and 65 catches.
“We’ve got to blend together. The biggest thing is the precision on our routes and our ball skills.”
Leach offers Netflix recommendations
It wouldn’t be a press conference with Mike Leach if it didn’t go a little bit off the rails.
In his introduction, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey noted that Leach has “outstanding Netflix recommendations.” During the question and answer portion of the session, Leach was asked for his recommendations. He prefaced his answer by saying he hadn’t been watching much lately, though he eventually gave an answer and also named a few other things he’s been watching.
“Somebody said I need to watch ‘The Terminal List,’ which I haven’t watched it yet. I guess the hidden gem, which I think I said it last year, ‘Operation Odessa,’ that documentary, you need to watch that about these international criminals that try to buy a submarine for Pablo Escobar. That’s worth watching,” Leach said. “I wish I could tell you I watched more Netflix. I haven’t watched a lot lately. During the season, it’s good to watch to kind of get your head straight. I’m up to date on ‘Better Call Saul,’ I’m up to date on ‘Yellowstone.’
“Yeah, I’ll tell you, that’s part of it. The kids got me into “Stranger Things.’ I’m certainly not ready for this season, I’m about halfway through. I don’t know.”
Leach says it’s ‘good to have (Texas and Oklahoma) back’ on his football radar
Once upon a time, Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech. He’s no stranger to Texas or Oklahoma — who are soon to be members of the SEC. In addition to handfuls of matchups against the Longhorns and Sooners in his career, Leach also served as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma in 1999.
He doesn’t have any hard feelings toward Texas or Oklahoma from his time leading the Red Raiders, and is instead rather excited for their entrance into the league.
“I look forward to seeing them. I thought they were outstanding when I was in Texas. Of course, we played them both every year. Look forward to seeing them,” Leach said.
“From my standpoint, it’s good to have them back, you know? Then, of course, you guys can debate where everybody is best off. No, I like forward to seeing them. I know a lot of Longhorns, and I know a lot of Sooners and coached at Oklahoma. I’ve been a Sooner sympathizer for a while. Look forward to having them back.”