Arnett picked Tennessee over Michigan State, Southern Cal, California and Michigan.
The 18-year-old receiver picked Tennessee because of receivers coach Charlie Baggett, who played and coached at Michigan State University.
“He recruited my family instead of just me … that was important,” Arnett said. “He coached so many great receivers, including my favorite, Randy Moss. He’s coached Cris Carter … he had all those receivers at Michigan State.”
Baggett spent 14 seasons coaching for the Spartans and mentored receivers such as Andre Rison, Mark Ingram, Plaxico Burress, Muhsin Muhammad, Courtney Hawkins and Derrick Mason.
Tennessee was one of Arnett’s early favorites thanks to former Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin. When Kiffin left Tennessee for Southern Cal, Arnett made the USC a potential destination.
He enjoyed his visits to Southern Cal and California, but he wanted something closer to home.
But not too close for the 6-foot, 170-pound senior.
“I wanted to get away from home and get out on my own,” Arnett said. “But (USC and California) were a little too far away from me. I didn’t want to be that far away from home. I wanted my family to see me play.”
Tennessee was the perfect fit and, for Arnett, the perfect situation.
“They’re in the SEC and that’s considered the top conference in the country … they’re the farm (system),” Arnett said. “They and the Big Ten are both big conferences in terms of getting me ready for the NFL.”
“Tennessee has a redshirt freshman quarterback (Tyler Bray), who’s really good … so that’s a good fit,” Arnett said. “Plus they have (Da’Rick) Rogers and (Justin) Hunter they can put on the outside and I can line up inside. It’s a good fit.”
In his senior season, Arnett caught 42 passes for 782 yards and eight touchdowns. He added six touchdowns running and returning kicks. The Trojans, who lacked a regular starting quarterback, were 1-8 and occasionally used Arnett at quarterback or tailback.
“It’s the first time I’ll have a top-quality quarterback throwing me passes,” Arnett said. “I can’t wait. I see myself as a receiver who can play both outside and the slot.”
There are some connections between Tennessee and Saginaw High. Former Trojans Reggie Jones and Terry McDaniel found success in Knoxville, Jones in track and McDaniel in football. Another former Saginaw High Trojan, Daniel West, went to Tennessee to play basketball but transferred and is currently playing for Rhode Island.
McDaniel, who was an NFL all-pro cornerback for Oakland, is a pastor in the Knoxville area.
Arnett, who has taken two trips to Knoxville, makes his official visit Saturday, and he hopes to visit McDaniel’s church.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about any of the other schools … they were all great,” Arnett said. “California was my first visit (Oct. 9), and I loved it. The weather was incredible.
“I loved USC, loved MSU, loved Michigan. Michigan was never out of the picture. They never stopped recruiting me. I was there over the weekend and saw them put up 67 points. The team can score. The receiver is going to get the ball.”
But when the time came to announce his decision, Arnett could not pass on Tennessee.
“They have a great business school, and I want to get into business … sports management, sports marketing, sports agent … something like that,” Arnett said. “I can’t wait to make it official in February. It feels good to get it over with. There was no sense in keeping the process going. I made my decision.”
Still, there is one part of going to Tennessee that will take some time to adjust for Arnett.
His wardrobe does not include a lot of orange.