EAST LANSING — Not many Spartans have had a crazier past three years than junior wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett.
After being ranked No. 57 in ESPN.com’s top prospects coming out of high school in 2011, the Saginaw, Mich. native decided to go to the University of Tennessee to play his college football. However, after Arnett’s father, William, began to suffer heart and kidney problems, the 5-foot-11 wide receiver was granted a transfer to Michigan State in 2012 to be near his father without having to miss the season.
After seeing limited time on the field last season (only recorded three catches for 69 yards) due to trouble grasping the playbook and other factors, Arnett has approached this season ready to make an impact.
DeAnthony Arnett (5) makes a nice run and catch in the Spartans annual Green-White game. (AP PHOTO)
“It’s second nature,” Arnett said in regards to his understanding of the playbook. “I was all over the place last year and it really takes a year to understand everything.”
With issues at home as well as being in a new environment at this time last season, one can see how Arnett may be a little more at ease now as we near the start of the 2013-2014 campaign.
“I’m comfortable,” Arnett said. “That’s the only way I can put it. Last year it was kind of uncomfortable with me because I’m not a talker and last year I had to be more vocal and talk and help the other guys, that was my role last year. This year I’m more comfortable, we’re all having fun, we feel like we’re going in the right direction.”
When I asked Arnett if he had a chip on his shoulder coming into this season because he didn’t live up to his own expectations as well as those of the fans, his answer said it all, “Definitely.” It only took that one word for me to see that Arnett had an edge about him, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates and coaches.
“There is a different look, there is a different bounce.” wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel said about his receiver. “He’s more aggressive, and that’s good. He’s trying to add the physical component more, and I’m enjoying it. He need to be (more physical), and in the Big Ten, Big Ten wide receivers are more physical and go after it and are aggressive. That part is in his make-up and now he’s just learning to express it.”
Sophomore standout receiver, Aaron Burbridge, has noticed Arnett’s focus just three practices into the summer.
“He is playing with a real chip on his shoulder,” Burbridge said. “He’s been doing real good these past few days in camp. He’s catching everything, getting depth on his routes, and doing everything just right.”
While it seems Arnett is physically prepared to make his presence felt this season, Samuel doesn’t believe that there will be any mental errors in terms of the playbook as well.
“I don’t see him having any problems and lingering effects,” Samuel said. “He knows the offense.”
Knowing the offense and earning the trust of second-year starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell will be key for Arnett if he wants to make an impact this season. And while he still has three weeks before the Spartans take on Western Michigan in the season opener, five days into August, the former U.S. Army All-America Bowl honoree has caught the attention of his quarterback.
“DeAnthony, yesterday and on Saturday, made some plays in big time situations.” Maxwell said. “He’s coming up with good catches in traffic, and being strong and using his hands.
“If you ask DeAnthony he will tell you he didn’t have the year last year that he wanted to have and it’s because he holds himself to that standard and he knows what kind of player he is and what kind of player he can be, and that’s the standard he holds himself by. He does have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and that’s been carrying over and he’s been making plays, so let’s hope that continues.”