August 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Matt Charboneau

DeAnthony Arnett might finally be on verge of breakout season

DeAnthony Arnett was rated the No. 2 Blue Chip recruit in the state by The Detroit News coming out of Saginaw High in 2011. (Detroit News / Dale G. Young)

East Lansing — Sometimes the reports from a preseason scrimmage can be a bit misleading.

With the games closed to fans and the media, it can often be hard to gauge whether or not the numbers reported are really worth paying attention to or not.

But after Michigan State’s first scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday, there was one set of numbers that jumped out — those of wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett.

The junior had eight catches for 167 yards. Two of those catches went for touchdowns — a 23-yarder from Damion Terry and a 19-yarder from Tyler O’Connor. It’s a continuation of a solid spring for a player that, to this point in his Michigan State career, has left fans wondering when the breakout will come.

Perhaps Saturday’s performance was an indication that breakout is near.

“DeAnthony Arnett had a great scrimmage,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “DeAnthony definitely stood out. He made three big plays (20-plus yards), with two going for touchdowns.”

Granted, it appears much of that production came against the second- and third-team defenses. We’ll get a better idea of that on Monday when Dantonio again addresses the media.

But what can’t be denied is that Arnett is producing in the midst of quite a battle at the receiver position. Playing time will not be easy to come by this season with the likes of Tony Lippett, Keith Mumphery, Aaron Burbridge, Macgarrett Kings and R.J. Shelton already established.

However, if Arnett continues to perform — he was the best of the bunch on Saturday — his chance will come when the season begins.

“He’s not thinking about routes anymore,” wide receiver coach Terrence Samuel said last week. “He’s flowing. His quickness is being used efficiently.”

It’s been a long and winding road for Arnett to get to this point. He was highly-regarded prospect out of Saginaw who chose to play at Tennessee and put together a solid freshman season for the Volunteers in 2011, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. But his father was ill back in Saginaw and Arnett transferred to Michigan State before the 2012 season.

Much was expected of Arnett then as the Spartans faced the prospect of replacing B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol. But he struggled that season, playing in seven games and catching just three passes. In 2013, he played only one game before making the decision to redshirt.

Some wondered if Arnett would ever pan out. But by this spring, it appeared the decision to redshirt was just what the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder needed. He had a solid spring, routinely being praised by the coaching staff.

It appears to be carrying over to the fall, highlighted by Saturday’s performance. If that is the case, the promise Arnett once had might finally be close to becoming reality.

“There are things he has to work on,” Samuel said. “He’s still got to be comfortable with the offense but I don’t have a problem with him playing. Right now he is in a competition and I’m going to sit back and see who comes out of it.”

Did Arnett’s production come against backups? Maybe, but it’s not like the second-team defense at Michigan State is a bunch of pushovers.

The bigger question is, can Arnett carry it over to game day?

Time will tell, but he’s certainly off to a pretty good start.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

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