Cornerback Damon Arnette has never been the quiet type.
Since arriving at Ohio State, he has been among the most boisterous Buckeyes in the secondary, touting his ability to play every chance he gets.
That confident, loud attitude combined with his visible talent has led cornerbacks coach and assistant defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs to draw comparisons to another former talented Buckeye corner.
“He will remind you of Bradley Roby when he’s on the field with the swagger and the way he plays,” Coombs said on Aug. 16.
Coombs said both players are fully aware of how their attitude on the field makes him feel.
“They know that I hated it,” Coombs said. “So they both know that swagger nonsense, trash talk stuff drives me nuts, but they still do it.”
Now, Arnette has the starting role to back up the swagger. Coombs announced that Arnette will join Denzel Ward and Kendall Sheffield as the latest group of three to rotate around the cornerback position.
A season ago, Arnette appeared in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman, but he took the backseat to Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, who were taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and Ward as the Buckeyes went with a rotation of corners in the secondary.
Arnette said he didn’t have much confidence in his game last season, and that it showed on the field as he tried to compete with the aforementioned trio in the preseason to take one of the starting cornerback positions.
“I gave up some catches that I wasn’t supposed to give up, and then I lost the spot and that’s just how it is,” Arnette said. “Coming back for this camp, I just know that I just got to be on top of my stuff to make the team better because last year, I feel like if they kept me in, the team would’ve suffered.”
With a year under his belt and having had the opportunity to gain some experience, Arnette said he now feels more confident in himself heading into this season. He added now being one of the more veteran members of the secondary and having younger players who look up to him for guidance has helped him grow and mature as a player.
“I was hurt for a while, and then just being nervous and trying to play as well as Marshon and Gareon instead of just going up there and play,” Arnette said. “But now, we have the younger dudes that came in and I just felt like that I have to play well for them to be good for them and be better for the team.”
That motivation to play better for the team extends beyond just the players on the field. Now as a starter in his third year at Ohio State, Arnette is going to be viewed as a source of inspiration and a leader among the large group of highly touted freshman corners.
“I was the younger dude last year and I was looking up to Marshon and Gareon so maybe just knowing that some people are looking up to you, that just drives me and makes me want to become a better player for them,” Arnette said.
But while Arnette will be looked at as a leader to the young corners, he will also have to make sure he doesn’t lose his starting spot to them. There is a quartet of talented freshman corners, two of which are five-star recruits (Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade) and the other two are both four-star recruits (Marcus Williamson and Amir Riep).
Arnette knows he can’t take any starting role for granted, and he said at any point anyone of the young freshmen could rise up, take his spot and run away with it for the rest of the year.
“You’ve got Okudah, Wade and Marcus, Amir, Kendall, me, Denzel, like all of those, everybody that I just named, they’re future first rounders in my opinion,” Arnette said. “I feel like nobody in our unit can go out there and feel like they don’t want to practice, you know what I mean, because it’s deep.”
The task of stepping up to be one of the starters is a daunting one for Arnette, especially considering the players he will be helping to replace, and the talent waiting in the wings should he underperform. But Arnette is excited to try and be that guy and bring his swagger to the field as he defends receivers.
“I like having fun out there, I like knowing that somebody else is worried about me covering them and telling them that, ‘Yeah, I’m right here,’” Arnette said.