When Alabama squares off against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. this Saturday, there will be a significant change from last year’s matchup. Zach Arnett has taken over the head coaching role for the Bulldogs, replacing Mike Leach, who passed away in December from a heart condition.
Monday during his press conference, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was asked how much he would miss coaching against Leach.
“I loved Mike Leach,” Saban said. “He was different, but in a good way. Had a great sense of humor. Obviously presented an offensive system, scheme, whatever you want to call it that was unique and very challenging, but he believed in it and did it his way.”
As an assistant at Kentucky, Leach and former boss Hal Mumme developed the Air Raid offense. Before becoming the head coach of Mississippi State, Leach held head coaching jobs at Texas Tech and Washington State, displaying his high-scoring offensive scheme.
At Mississippi State, Leach held a 19-17 record, highlighted by an 8-4 final season before his passing in December.
Leach also gained recognition for his eccentric personality. He often grabbed the spotlight with his remarks during press conferences that didn’t necessarily revolve around football. He also was well-known for his fascination with pirates in which he concocted the quote “Swing your sword."
“Always had a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach,” Saban said. “But really liked him as a person.”
Arnett is now in charge of leading Mississippi State, and he has dialed back the high-octane offense that was a trademark of Leach's coaching style. The Bulldogs are now a much more balanced offense that will pose a challenge for Alabama on the road.
Alabama will face Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday at 8 p.m.
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