All season, fans have clamored for DeAnthony Arnett to see the field and wondered why the Tennessee transfer isn’t part of MSU’s offense. Tuesday night, he finally broke his two-month silence.
Arnett said he has “no regrets at all” about coming to East Lansing and plans to return to MSU next season.
“I can look back on this season and say it was nothing but a learning experience,” the sophomore wide receiver said. “I just know I gotta get better. I gotta come in here next year a totally different player, which I plan on doing – come back a beast and just continue to be myself.
“I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere.”
Coach Mark Dantonio and Spartans QB Andrew Maxwell earlier Tuesday gave positive reviews of Arnett’s improvement but adding that Arnett still has work to do to join the playing group.
“DeAnthony is a guy that needs to continue to grow in our program,” Dantonio said when asked about the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Saginaw native. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t redshirt him, because we had such high expectations and hopes for him at the beginning of the season. The reality is how many guys can you play? That’s the reality.”
Arnett continues to be listed as the co-second-stringer at MSU’s “Z/”flanker position along with redshirt freshman Andre Sims Jr., behind sophomore starter Keith Mumphery. Dantonio’s regular rotation of receivers includes Mumphery, junior Bennie Fowler, sophomore Tony Lippett and true freshmen Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings Jr.
Four times this season, Arnett did not play due to coaches’ decisions. The last time he saw action was a one-catch, 9-yard effort against Iowa on Oct. 13, and he has just one other catch for 48 yards against CMU. There were a few other targets here and there, but Arnett for the most part has not been part of MSU’s passing attack.
“He’s traveled to every game, but the number of plays that he’s gotten game time really hasn’t come to fruition for all parties involved,” Dantonio said. “I’m sure he’s disappointed in it. I’m a little disappointed in it as well. At the end of the day, you ask where his attitude and effort is, and it’s very, very good. I think he’s going to be a great player for us here.”
As a true freshman for the Volunteers last season, Arnett caught 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. MSU protested successfully to the NCAA to allow Arnett to be able to play immediately after he left Tennessee, citing his father’s health condition as the motivating reason for the transfer.
“He’s getting better every week. He’s been bringing more attention to detail and more focus to practice,” Maxwell said. “DeAnthony’s always been a guy who’s had all the physical tools. He’s as quick a receiver as we have. When he runs his routes, he’s shifty as there is.
“Each and every week, he’s learning the offense more and being around it and seeing the adjustments and the checks. He’s really soaking it in. You can see it in practice that he’s not thinking as much, he’s just going out there and playing, and it’s coming a little more naturally to him.”
After the win over CMU on Sept. 8, Arnett expressed his frustration to MSU’s student paper, The State News. He had not been made available by MSU’s athletic communications staff again until Tuesday night.
Media can only attend one practice a week, for only about 20 minutes worth of primarily positional drill work, and can interview players briefly after that day’s team workouts. Even without Arnett talking, he has been visible after practices those Tuesdays as he’s puts in extra work with other receivers and coaches.
“I’m here, I’m working every day to get better,” said Arnett, who estimated he’s been putting in an extra 45 minutes to an hour after practice every day.
Dantonio pointed to additional consistency in blocking as one area of growth Arnett must continue to improve upon. Getting the opportunity to work with the Spartans’ offense and primary positional coaches rather than performing scout team duties with the redshirt players also is helping, the coach said.
“He has big-play ability and a great future here,” Dantonio said.
Still, additional playing time is not guaranteed. Dantonio pledged that he and his staff will continue to use “who is playing the best right now and try to go with those guys consistently.”
Arnett said playing time is “ultimately not my decision.” He knows one thing will help achieve that goal of becoming a consistent contributor.
“More hard work,” he said. “That’s just plain and simple.