WVU Football: Arnett has hot-cold start as a receiver

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Don't call him Ocho Dos just yet. Not after being shut out Saturday with nary a catch. Nada.

"I'm a big fan of Chad Johnson," West Virginia's Alric Arnett said the other day, punctuating with a smirk his reference to the Cincinnati Bengals' wide receiver who had his name, and his NFL uniform nameplate, officially changed to Ocho Cinco to represent the Spanish translation for the digits in his No. 85.

Outside of Arnett's humor, his position, his ranginess (an inch taller at 6 feet 2), his Atlantic Coast roots (Belle Glade, Fla., to Johnson's Miami Beach) and his Western junior-college pedigree (Scottsdale Community College in Arizona to Johnson's Santa Monica, Calif.), there pretty much is no comparison with West Virginia's No. 82.

After all, Johnson -- or is it Ocho Cinco? -- snags passes with weekly regularity.

And Arnett, when needed by the Mountaineers (1-1) last Saturday, caught none at East Carolina and rarely caught the eye of Patrick White, who threw toward him just once.

The tall receiver who emerged in spring drills and the Villanova opener as a chief White target will try to contribute reliably in both the passing game by catching and rushing game by blocking when the Mountaineers traipse into Folsom Field for an ESPN-televised road test at Colorado (2-0) Sept. 18.

White isn't worried.

"I know he's a player," said the quarterback whose Heisman Trophy candidacy absorbed a crippling blow with an output of 97 yards rushing, 72 yards passing and zero touchdowns against East Carolina. "A fast guy with good hands. The fact he made plays [against Villanova] didn't surprise me. We have a lot of playmakers who'll make big plays for us."

Arnett made several in the opener, but faded at Greenville, N.C. White, who was sacked three times and flushed from the pocket on four more occasions minimum, zipped only one pass in Arnett's direction, incomplete on the third quarter's next-to-last play. It was a radical departure from Villanova, when White completed his first downfield pass, his first deep attempt, to Arnett on a 24-yard, post-pattern touchdown.

It went so well that they repeated it soon after.

White's next downfield attempt was to Arnett on a 34-yard, post-pattern touchdown.

"My first two catches as a Mountaineer went for six points," said Arnett, a redshirt junior. "Can't complain about that. Maybe if I ever have kids I'll tell them about that."

Healthy after missing last season due to thumb surgery, the 6-2, 180-pound Arnett added two more catches later in the 48-21 Villanova rout and finished with four receptions for 70 yards, putting him on pace for perhaps one of the top 10 best seasons by a Mountaineers receiver.

"I know expectations are high for me," Arnett said. "Even though I made some pretty good catches, made some pretty big plays [against Villanova], there's always room for improvement."

Such as consistency.

A year ago, about the only thing he did steadily was mope.

"I just sat around," he recalled of his idle time after surgery to his left thumb. "I was in a cast, I couldn't do much. So I did a lot of thinking. It changed my approach to the game of football. When I first got here, I was a little laid back. I came out with a hunger and attacked.

"Everything happens for a reason. Last year, it wasn't meant for me to play. This year, I came out with two touchdowns [at the start]. It was meant to be. ... It's a new era now."

Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com .


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