Arnette Comes With Winning Pedigree

Ohio State incoming freshman Damon Arnette will be looking to make a quick impact at a position that is currently depleted.

The recruiting marriage of Ohio State and Damon Arnette may not have come about were it not for a divorce between the Buckeyes and eventual Auburn signee Carlton Davis – as well as Arnette’s own decision to flip from South Carolina.

Even so, the Buckeyes may be thankful one day that Arnette’s recruitment played out the way it did. A 6-1, 190-pound prospect out of South Florida, Arnette didn’t play cornerback until his senior season. With limited reps at that position, he received a three-star rating and was listed by as the 118th-best prospect at his position.

A combination of factors hint at the likelihood of Arnette outplaying that ranking, though.

Arnette has one of the things that Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer values most in recruits – a winning pedigree. The Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas prospect comes from a program that has won two state titles during the last three seasons and took top honors in 2014 with a 14-1 season. When he signed the class of 2014, Meyer spoke of his admiration for such players and said if he had more time he’d love to do a study on the correlation between playing for a successful high school and receiving early playing time in college.

“The correlation between a young guy playing early and a guy that comes from a championship level program, that means he understands weightlifting and fundamentals of football and winning and the price it takes to go win a game and win a championship,” Meyer said. “Those guys usually play early.”

Aquinas is specifically one of the programs that Meyer holds up as the example of what a high school team should be. He took junior defensive end Joey Bosa in the class of 2013, followed with Arnette in 2015 and hopes to sign Bosa’s younger brother Nick – a five-star defensive end and the No. 4 overall player in the country for the class of 2016 – during the next recruiting cycle.

“We'll take one every year if they give them to us,” Meyer said when asked about Arnette’s St. Thomas Aquinas background. “That's a great school.”

He’s also a good fit for what Ohio State does defensively. Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has shown a preference for smaller corners who can fit well into a press coverage scheme, and although Arnette is 6-1, his length and speed combination makes him a good fit for that type of work.

“He’s perfect for Ohio State,” said Rocco Casullo, who coached Arnette at Aquinas. “With what Urban likes, what the defense does, he’ll make strides right away. He’s going to be in the mix very soon.”

The Raiders used him in a variety of ways at defensive back after he transitioned from wide receiver. Arnette, who told BSB that playing on the defensive side of the ball came more naturally to him, has an ability to slot into just about every role that the defensive backfield has to offer.

“He’s one of those hybrid guys,” Casullo said. “You can put him outside, put him at nickel, he can play corner. He’s just a strong guy. He knows the game of football and comes from an athletic family. He’s very raw, but he’s a perfect get for Ohio State. I’m very happy he’s going there.”

So is cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, who is facing a bit of a depth problem right now in the secondary with the departure of nickel back Armani Reeves, the graduation of Doran Grant and the injury that has sidelined Marshon Lattimore. The Buckeyes took five guys in the 2015 class who could theoretically play cornerback, which is the spot that Arnette projects to play.

It is Coombs’ stated preference that the nickel back role be filled by a cornerback because of the coverage duties absorbed by those who line up at that position, and he may have found a good candidate in Arnette.

“Arnette is long, fast and athletic,” Coombs said. “Came to Friday Night Lights and competed his butt off. He’s going to be a great player for us. Really excited to have him.”

There was a time when it seemed as though Arnette may not end up in Ohio State’s class, and many recruiting analysts projected him to stick to his South Carolina commitment that he made July 8, 2014. But when it came time to close, the Buckeyes turned up the intensity and swayed him from USC.

He made a visit to Ohio State the weekend of Jan. 30 – the final weekend before National Signing Day – and loved it.

“The visit went fine – more than fine, really,” Arnette said. “I got a better look around campus than I did for Friday Night Lights. I got to spend time around a lot of the players.”

Truth be told, though, the deal had already been sealed the night before Arnette stepped on the plane to go to Columbus. Meyer had used the chance to take his in-home visit with Arnette and, in his famous closer fashion, he provided the winning pitch to the three-star cornerback.

“What really sold me on it was when Coach Meyer came to my house before the trip,” Arnette said. “With me, it was a lot of opportunity that he was preaching to me. He was telling me about the opportunity I would have individually and as a team. He believes that I can come in and make an early impact for the team and he believes that for the next few years Ohio State is going to be at the top of the list.”

If Arnette can fulfill his potential that Casullo, Meyer and Coombs see in him, the player that ended up at Ohio State at the last minute could eventually work his way to the top of the depth chart.

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