published Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

UT freshman Arnett off to good start

  • photo
    Freshman DeAnthony Arnett poses for a photograph during the University of Tennessee's football media day at Neyland Stadium earlier this year.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Eight simple, straightforward words meant DeAnthony Arnett had no time to sit around and think.

Tennessee's freshman receiver simply had to respond.

Star wideout Justin Hunter's season was done early in UT's loss at Florida, and Arnett had mere moments to prepare mentally for his expanded role in the Volunteers' offense.

"I had seen him go down," the 6-foot, 175-pound Arnett said after Tuesday morning's practice in his first interview with the media. "I hoped he gets back up.

"Coach [Derek Dooley] looked at me and was just like, 'Put your helmet on. It's time to go.'"

And Arnett went, finishing the Vols' 10-point loss in Gainesville with eight catches for 59 yards. He scored his first career touchdowns against Buffalo this past Saturday. He quickly turned upfield after catching a shout-out pattern, tightroped along the sideline and dove in from 8 yards out for his first. His second score, a 13-yarder, was an improvisation between him and quarterback Tyler Bray.

"DeAnthony is a talented guy," Dooley said. "He's got real good transition, he's got good ball skills and a real good feel for the game. His biggest thing right now is playing fast without the ball. That's something that all freshmen really struggle with is learning how to play fast without the ball, and he's still working on that."

A four-star recruit from Saginaw, Mich., Arnett expected to play right away. His speed and shiftiness make him an ideal slot receiver, but he has to learn some of each of UT's three receiver spots to make the offense more versatile and difficult to defend.

"I wanted to come in right away," Arnett said. "I was more anxious than anything. Sometimes I get so anxious to the point of where I mess up, so I was just real anxious when I got my chance."

He acknowledged that all the plays and their options had been more involved than he expected.

"It's been tough on me, especially the first two games and all through training camp," he said. "But once I got it down, it's coming along and coming easy to me."

Most freshman receivers struggle with route-running. Da'Rick Rogers struggled with consistency as a freshman last year, and Hunter was limited to deep throws and slants.

"He's running them consistently," Bray said. "He's not changed the way he's doing them, and for a quarterback that helps. If a guy runs it one way [sometimes] and then switches it up the next time, that kind of throws off your timing, so him just keeping his route consistent helps.

"He's still learning and has a lot to learn, and he's still a young guy. I just tell him if you run the wrong route, at least run it full speed. I could at least make something happen."

Arnett has done nearly all of his damage on short, quick out patterns, and the Vols hope he can add to his repertoire as the defenses get better.

"I just know I have to step up more and I know I have to take practice more seriously," he said. "I don't want to be treated like a freshman no more. I try to tell the coaches that all the time. They tell me they're not going to treat me like a freshman. They expect me to step my level of play up."

More than a debut

Jordan Williams' debut went well, as the freshman defensive end got a sack in his first collegiate action. That certainly will earn the Gainesville, Fla., native more opportunities in UT's pass-rushing package moving forward.

"We need more defensive linemen, and any time you start a new guy you try not to overwhelm him," Dooley said. "He's got a great motor, he's got very good twitch. Those two qualities right there are as important as you can have from a defensive lineman."

Short memory

Defensive end Jacques Smith wasn't the only UT defender who was fooled Saturday by a fake handoff on Buffalo's lone touchdown, a 68-yard run by quarterback Chazz Anderson. Freshman safety Brian Randolph misread the play as well, but he bounced back.

"I think he handled [his mistake] pretty well," junior defensive back Prentiss Waggner said. "When he got to the sideline, he was a little down on himself. I told him to pick his head up. I think after that play, he came right back in. When he went with the [starters], I went to corner, he was out there making all the checks. That was good to see."

Carrying on

Freshman Devrin Young continues to carry a football with him around the practice field as the Vols preach ball security to their return specialist, whose fumble Saturday ruined an otherwise impressive debut. ... UT has just one interception this season. Waggner attributed it to aggression and trust in the secondary.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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