The No. 7 player on this list is now in his third year of starting at cornerback for the Buckeyes, but this will be the first year that he isn’t rotating with two other starters.
No. 7 — Damon Arnette, Fifth-Year Senior Cornerback
Five years ago today, Damon Arnette committed to South Carolina.
A 3-star prospect, Arnette was still looking around leading up to the 2015 signing day. That January, he took official visits to Michigan, South Carolina, and then Ohio State.
The OSU visit took place the weekend before signing day. Shortly after his visit, he announced his decommitment from South Carolina and committed to Ohio State. Two days later he signed his letter of intent.
Arnette arrived with a leg injury and redshirted as a true freshman. Kerry Coombs, who was the cornerbacks coach at the time, was hoping that Arnette could turn a planned 3-man rotation at cornerback in 2016 into a 4-man rotation. That didn’t happen, but in 2017 Arnette stepped into the rotation and he remains there to this day.
Arnette has four interceptions in his career, with two of those coming in 2017. He finished with one pick last year and broke up six other passes. The interception return last season only went for one yard, but came in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern.
What He Does Well
Arnette is an aggressive defender who takes on every challenger with confidence. That kind of personality helps immensely in this particular job.
Arnette’s physicality led to a team-high five pass interference penalties last season, but he did go the first seven Big Ten games without a single flag.
In terms of making big plays, that part of the game has eluded Arnette to this point. Perhaps a third position coach in the span of three years can change that.
Damon Arnette in 2019
An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last season, Damon Arnette has the speed, size, and strength to contend with receivers in press coverage.
A philosophical move to a more varied approach in coverages should allow him to make more plays on the ball. Often in press coverage, passes get thrown without the cornerback ever knowing it. With some more off-coverage mixed in, Arnette should have an opportunity to make more plays this season. He is also likely to be on the field more this year than in years past because the 3-man rotation at corner appears to be dead.
This season, secondary coach Jeff Hafley is expecting to get the best version of Arnette. Arnette has seen it all, has 25 starts to his credit, and is now being taught some new things that Hafley brought with him from the NFL.
This is Damon Arnette’s contract year, so he’ll be looking to cash in.
Playing with his eyes on the quarterback a bit more could leave to some big plays this season.
What They Are Saying
“I haven’t seen any down yet, so everything I see from him – like I told him – ‘whatever happens right now is all I see because I’m here now.’ I haven’t seen any down from him. I see a guy who’s doing everything right on and off the field. I see a guy who is giving it all he has. A guy in the meeting room who is awesome. So, very pleased with Damon.” — Secondary coach Jeff Hafley on Damon Arnette.
“I watched his film. I studied his film as I was getting ready to take the job and I saw a very talented player. He plays hard and has tremendous ability. Can cover, tough, physical, and then I saw the same things on the field. He’s a guy that loves football and a guy who works hard, a guy who gave it his all every single day, a guy who actually seemed like he enjoyed being out there. He played with confidence and has a ton of ability. There are some things that we need to work on, just like everybody else. I think I said it to you guys earlier, he’s given everything that he has had, and he has not been any issue. So, if I had never had heard anything about him, and you guys had mentioned… what are you guys talking about? That is how I came in, I wanted to give everyone a clean slate and I did that. Until he proves otherwise, I am not going to think about it.” — Jeff Hafley on Damon Arnette.
“He has done everything that we have asked him to do. I think he had a really good spring and I think he picked up on some of the techniques we are doing very well. I think he is a very talented player and we have got to get him better in training camp and he has got to stay healthy. I think he has a chance to have a really good year. He is made of the right stuff, he is tough, and he loves football. He might like football more than most people I have ever been around. You love guys like that.” — Jeff Hafley on Damon Arnette
“That’s corners though, right? I’m used to the whole room being like that, where I’ve got to be like, ‘Okay guys, calm down today.’ If Damon were here right now, I think he’d have that energy that you guys know. I think he’d say he’s excited. I think he’d be happy. We just have to keep going that.” — Jeff Hafley on Damon Arnette’s penchant for talking trash.