Michigan offered DeAnthony Arnett a scholarship in March, but it isn't the only school interested in the standout receiver. (Miller Safrit/Scout.com)
The state of Michigan's 2010 gridiron prospect crop has received a great deal of recognition, and deservedly so. The majority of the players that dot the top-10 rankings have earned double-digit offers from high-major institutions. That said, there are a few players in the Great Lakes State's 2011 class that have already begun grabbing some of the attention. None in that group currently shines brighter than Saginaw wideout DeAnthony Arnett.
The 6-0, 165-pounder began his ascent into spotlight before he ever played a down of varsity football. He officially burst onto the scene as one of the standout receivers at Michigan's football camp last summer. So impressive was he during the one-on-ones that he was quickly moved up to compete with players one and two years his senior. That success fueled his confidence heading into a sophomore season during which a lot was expected.
Because he attends the same school and plays the same position that former Michigan State star Charles Rogers did, the comparisons have been inescapable. The similarities, however, pretty much stop there. Arnett is a different receiver altogether, possessing neither the size nor the sprinter's speed of his talented predecessor. What he does have, though, is his own special knack for making the big play. He proved as much during a Week 4 matchup with rival Midland and its Northwestern-bound WR/CB Drew Moulton. Saginaw lost the game that day, but Arnett felt he won the individual battle.
"They were pressing me," Arnett said, recalling his seven-catch, 140-yard, two-touchdown performance. "We didn't understand why they were pressing me. Coach pretty much was like, 'Lob it up every time they come up and press' me. After that, I was pretty much feeling it. Ever since that game everybody was talking about it. (Afterward) I was pretty much playing with a new swagger."
As dynamic as Arnett was at times, he couldn't cure everything that troubled a team that wound up winning only three games. Armed now with experience and a new coach, he is optimistic that his junior campaign will include both individual and collective success. To ensure he is ready to take on an even bigger load next year, he has made it his mission this offseason to tackle every camp and combine possible. He also has made it his mission to exceed the benchmarks that Rogers established during his storied high school career. Ironically, if he were to achieve that goal, Rogers would deserve some of the credit.
"When I was a lot younger, he was at the high school," Arnett said of the former Trojan star. "I was like 11 or 12 and he was in the NFL. He taught me how to get off the ball."
In recent months, numerous opponents have bore witness to just what a good student Arnett was. He was one of a few sophomores to earn a spot on Michigan team at the Scout.com/New Level Athletics 7-on-7 passing camp in Columbus, Ohio, back in March. Once he shook off a few early jitters, he showed everyone in attendance that he truly belonged.
"I always play well with a chip on my shoulder," a confident Arnett said afterward. "Always."
That chip was once again on full display in early May when he traveled to Chicago to participate in the second of Scout.com's Midwest combines. When the event concluded, it was Arnett who walked away with the MVP award.
"It is tough for underclassmen to take home that honor, but Arnett had an impressive day all-around," said Scout.com Midwest analyst Allen Trieu. "It all started with his 40-yard dash. He had sprained his ankle earlier in the week and even looked a little gimpy running his 40, yet his 4.51 was one of the top times on the day. He then followed that up with a 4.23 shuttle, which tied for tops on the day. In footwork drills the coaches consistently remarked at how smooth and quick out of his breaks he was. However, during one route, he let out a scream and said he felt something pop. After a few minutes and against the advice of his family members, he returned to the field saying he wanted MVP.
"In one-on-ones, his route running was impressive and his quickness allowed him to get off the line against some of the more physical defenders. He made a couple of great leaping grabs and drew some oohs and aahhs on several double moves where he left his man."
It's showings like that that likely compelled Michigan to extend a verbal scholarship offer in March. The Wolverines were first to the table, but they surely won't be the last. A trip to Tennessee's camp last weekend may have pushed the Volunteers closer to pulling up a seat.
"It went real well," said Arnett to Scout.com regarding his time in Knoxville. "They didn't really say anything (about an offer), but Coach (Lane) Kiffin said he really liked me."
Arnett hopes the Michigan State coaching staff is similarly impressed when he camps there later this month. A few previous visits to East Lansing only served to strengthen the Spartans' status as one of the top teams on his early list.
"I like the campus, the education part," said Arnett of Michigan State. "Football-wise, they're pretty balanced. They throw the ball and run the ball. I like that."
Other offers on Arnett's early wish list include Ohio State and childhood favorite Oklahoma. If he has to travel to those schools to earn those scholarships, so be it. He is more than willing to do so, knowing full well that his name is making the rounds and that he will be a marked man for the top defensive backs in attendance.
Said Arnett: "It's a lot of pressure knowing that every camp you go to, they'll be like, 'He got offered by Michigan.'"
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His column appears every Thursday.