DeAnthony Arnett is the sixth-ranked receiver in the country, according to Scout.com. (Sam Webb/Special to The Detroit News)
Saginaw wideout DeAnthony Arnett made a habit of victimizing defensive backs at passing camps in the spring and summer.
The 6-0, 180-pounder's precision route running and quickness allowed him to out-maneuver the coverage of almost every opponent he faced.
However, when the real football season began, the opposition began stacking the deck against him.
The one-on-one match-ups he saw in the camps have now given way to bracket coverage.
The target is on my back from all the coaches, teams -- everybody," Arnett said. Pretty much the plan every week is for the opposing team to keep at least two for sure, but sometimes three to four (defenders) on me every time, every play."
That kind of defensive attention may prevent Arnett from racking up the gaudy statistics many expect from four-star prospect, but it won't prevent college scouts and coaches alike from lauding him as one of the top receivers in the country.
"He's the #6 wideout in the nation right now," said Scout.com Midwest Regional Manager, Allen Trieu. "I think all the Scout experts that have seen him, including our national director, agree that he runs routes and creates separation as well as anyone else in the country."
Trieu believes the only disadvantage Arnett has is that he's not as big as most top prospects.
But the fact Arnett can compete nationally with an elite group of targets that are at least 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds speaks volumes about his ability.
MSU a leader?
Arnett's laundry list of scholarship offers also serves as confirmation of skills.
He trimmed it down in June to six finalists (in no particular order): California, USC, Oklahoma, Iowa, Tennessee and Michigan State.
Arnett proclaimed the Spartans his leader early in the summer, but then gave that distinction to USC.
Now he appears to have avoided discussion of a potential leader altogether.
"I don't want to go too much into who is the leader and who is not," he said. "These are the final six schools . These are the schools that are basically keeping it real with me."
Some factors Arnett will evaluate before he makes a decision: early playing time, comfort level with the program and honesty of the head coach.
A comfort level was established long ago with Michigan State.
Frequent visits and conversations with the Spartan coaches in recent months have only served to enhance an already strong relationship.
"We vibe all the time," Arnett said. "I talk to them a lot -- at least twice a week. They email and they will call me once a week. I'll call them (also) just to keep in contact.
"Michigan State is a great program. It is up and coming, on the rise as far as young talent." While it's clear that Arnett plans to give each of his remaining suitors a fair shake, the home-field advantage enjoyed by the Spartans could prove extremely tough for another school to overcome.
"MSU has always been right there and will continue to be right there for him," Trieu said. "I consider MSU to really be the team to beat. He camped there and he's been there more than a few times. He is very comfortable there, as is his family."
Vols stay in mix
While MSU could have an edge, Tennessee appears to remain in good standing for the wideout.
The Volunteers first began making their presence felt in Arnett's recruitment prior to his junior season under former coach Lane Kiffin.
When the new coaches arrived in Knoxville last winter they wasted little time picking up the baton.
"They're real cool, like I expected," Arnett told Scout.com.. "They're good guys, real laid-back. I really like (receivers) Coach (Charlie) Baggett a lot, and Coach (Derek) Dooley seems like a real honest guy. You can tell this coaching staff is really trying hard to turn things around."
The Vols also stand out as the only program other than Michigan State to have Arnett's mother on campus during an unofficial visit.
Arnett expects his mother to join him on his visits this fall. That means all of his other finalists will have the opportunity to make their own strong impressions. That said, they won't have a great deal of time to do so.
Arnett is expected to visit USC on Oct. 16, the day the Trojans play California.
"The other three (visits) I'm going to set up pretty soon -- within the next week or so," Arnett said. "(The recruiting process) will not go past November."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.