De’Onte Arnett starred as a defensive end in high school and was a heralded recruit for Maryland three years ago.
No one saw him as an offensive lineman, least of all him. Well, that was the case until he made the switch to guard in the middle of the 2010 season.
“When you’re primarily a defensive player, you look at the offensive line like ‘Those guys are fat slobs,’ ” Arnett said. “You switch over to the offensive line, you’re just slow, not athletic at all. But once I switched over, I took a liking to it. There’s still no better feeling than getting a sack or a fumble recovery, anything like that, having your name called over. But it’s definitely a fun position.”
After starting last year’s season finale at N.C. State, Arnett is hoping to enjoy himself even more in the fall.
The 6-foot-4 junior, who was 250 pounds when he arrived in College Park, has filled in to a more imposing 290 pounds. But he hasn’t lost the agility and quickness Maryland coveted when he signed with the program.
His stint on the defensive line didn’t materialize in playing time, and his position change less than two years ago could prove vital to a reconstructed offensive line that lost three of six players who made at least five starts last season.
“We had to give up future draft considerations and salary cap bonuses to the defense to get him over here to the right side of the ball, finally, but once he kind of figured it out, you could just see his athleticism,” offensive line coach Tom Brattan said before the start of spring practice.
Arnett had plenty to learn when he began his transformation into an offensive lineman, but his new role had to become natural, too.
That led to playing time in the final throes of the Terps’ forgettable autumn.
After appearing in just three of the first 10 games, Arnett worked as a reserve against Wake Forest and then overtook Pete White (who is sidelined this spring because of shoulder surgery) to earn the starting nod against N.C. State.
It also has led Arnett, now listed as a starter at left guard, to place a priority on spring ball this year to continue his growth.
“Proving I’m a solid player, that I can bring back that consistency I had at the end of the season and the reason I ended up starting at N.C. State,” Arnett said. “It’s an opportunity for me to prove I actually deserve to be there amongst the other guards, people who have been playing there for seven, eight, nine years and I’m just playing for what, second year?”
That was partially his choice, of course. Those who insist upon dwelling on recruiting rankings might bring up the plaudits Arnett earned in high school.
He’s more concerned about continuing his development on offense.
“Not to me, but my mom always tell me when I come home ‘You know what they’re saying,” Arnett said. “I’m like ‘Mom, I don’t read that stuff.’ I just care about how the coaches feel like I’m performing.”
They, it turns out, are anticipating just as much of Arnett now as Maryland’s old staff did when he arrived.
“The level of expectation has gone way up for him,” coach Randy Edsall said. “I think that’s just something we as coaches let him know that. We’ve seen things he can do. Now it’s time for him to take it to the next level.”
NOTES: Maryland has moved redshirt freshman Nate Clarke from offensive guard to nose tackle and sophomore A.J. Hendy from safety to cornerback.
Edsall said Tuesday the injured Kenny Tate will remain at strongside linebacker.
“We’ve talked to Kenny and he knows that’s where he’s going to be,” Edsall said. “He’ll be in the meetings there. He likes it and understands that’s what’s best for him and that’s what’s best for us.”
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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