John Paul II defensive back Terrion Arnold named his final three schools over the weekend. The Tallahassee resident is an All-American DB from the state of Florida.
It was not a surprise trim. He'd been to see Alabama, Florida and Georgia the most. Those schools always seemed like they had the most detailed plans for him.
LSU was a school he had visited. But he had never visited Texas A&M. It just made sense for him to focus on that final trio leading up to his Feb. 3. decision.
Arnold was the final UGA priority for the 2021 recruiting class prior to that final trim. DawgNation placed him as the No. 1 remaining target for the cycle after 5-star OT Amarius Mims committed back in October.
Georgia had to load up on DBs in this cycle. It still really does now. He's never lost that top spot.
He's as good as any DB prospect Georgia has signed during the Kirby Smart era. It might be a debatable opinion given big top 50 overall prospects like Tyson Campbell, Lewis Cine, Tyrique Stevenson and Kelee Ringo would all eventually sign with UGA.
The nod goes to Arnold there for his versatility. He has the athleticism, ball skills, physicality and tackling ability to play any position on the back end at a high level in the SEC. Not just at free safety or a nickel corner. Not just as a press corner.
The learning curve to master Georgia's secondary is steep. Steeper than most fans probably realize. Yet once a potential signee with Arnold's ability joins the roster, they can log a lot of snaps in that secondary.
The quick-hit things about Terrion Arnold and his decision
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior always said he would decide in February. The timing here has allowed him to see a lot of developments at each of those three programs.
· Alabama signed 25 prospects during the early period and has the No. 1 class on the 247Sports Composite rankings for 2021. The Crimson Tide also has another 5-star RB commit that will sign in February. With scant scholarships, Arnold has said they will save one for him.
· The Tide signed five defensive backs in this class and there are three who are seen as cornerbacks. That's the position they are recruiting Arnold to play.
· Alabama just completed one of its finest seasons in program history by blasting Ohio State in the national championship game.
· Florida did not retain the two defensive back coaches that had built the recruiting relationships with Arnold. The Gators have added former Auburn defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff to their staff to fill one of the two positions coaching cornerbacks and safeties for that program. The Gators are primarily recruiting Arnold to play safety.
· That Gators also closed out their 2020 season by losing their last three games. Arnold was at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as a fan to watch the overtime loss to LSU.
· Florida also signed five DBs during the early period, including a 5-star CB and a pair of top 15 safeties for the 2021 cycle.
· Georgia has seen a mass exodus from its DB depth chart since the end of the 2020 regular season. Seniors DJ Daniel, Richard LeCounte III and Mark Webb Jr. all announced their intent to move on to the NFL. Juniors Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes Jr. also declared for the NFL. Rising junior CB Tyrique Stevenson entered the transfer portal and there is a clear intent to transfer to Miami. That's six of the team's top 7 defensive backs from a year ago.
· The Bulldogs signed four DBs during the early period, including a top 5 CB in Nyland Green. They also have a top 100 overall prospect in safety David Daniel. Georgia also signed a pair of versatile defensive backs in Javon Bullard and Kamari Lassiter. Both appear to be quite better than their prospect rankings. UGA also lost the commitment from the nation's No. 1 JUCO cornerback prospect on early signing day. De'Jahn "Nugget" Warren had been an early pledge to the class.
So to review:
· Alabama: Signed 5 DBs. Saving a scare scholarship for Arnold. Added to its already pristine championship luster finishing the season on the highest of notes.Will return nine starters on its defense.
· Florida: Signed 5 DBs. Major turnover among his primary recruiters. The defensive coordinator is on the hot seat. Finished its season with negative momentum. Arnold has said it does mean something to stay close to home and play for his home state. Will return seven starters on defense.
· Georgia: Signed 4 DBs. An already wide-open DB depth chart now looks as expansive as the Dutton ranch from the "Yellowstone" streaming series. Set to return five defensive starters and only two of those in the secondary. That's counting Chris Smith II as a part-time starter for 2020.
Terrion Arnold: His thoughts on the Gators
Florida plans to use him as a safety prior to the departure of its cornerbacks and safeties coaches. The other two schools want to line Arnold up at cornerback.
“It is free safety," Arnold said recently. "Kind of like that [Shawn] Davis spot but I’m way faster than [Shawn] Davis and more aggressive. They said it will change the whole outcome of how their safeties play.”
He did notice Florida defensive back Marco Wilson flip his shoe in the Florida-LSU game. He was a ticketed patron for that contest on a self-guided visit where he had no contact with the coaches.
"At first I was like 'oh no no' but then after that how people were blaming him I was like 'Man this is a team sport,'" Arnold said. "Kyle Trask threw two interceptions. They blew a coverage. The kicker missed a field goal. Different things like that. I was like man that's why we play the game of football."
"That has nothing to do with that. Marco is a pretty decent player. He just had a lot of breakdown moments. I could tell from that game that a mistake was going to happen with him, though. Because he was celebrating too much after making some easy plays. Like pass breakups. Celebrating after he made a tackle. Just doing a little too much and got caught up actually too much in the game with the antics."
His mentality is that if a player is used to making plays like that, then there's no need to take things too far.
Terrion Arnold compares Alabama and Georgia
When 5-star LB Xavier Sorey chose UGA last month, he said it made an impact.
“It is pretty big for me now I’m not even going to lie to you,” Arnold said. “That’s somebody I am close with. That’s somebody I would room together with and compete with every day. Grew up around. We grew up coming from basically the same area. That’s pretty good connections right there.”
Arnold said he didn't even need to ask Sorey why he chose the Bulldogs. He didn't even know before Sorey went live on ESPN on Dec. 16 from his former high school gymnasium.
“His relationship with Kirby Smart,” Arnold said. “Kirby is a real real great recruiter and like down-to-earth. He takes care of his guys for the long term and during the time in college. Just a great dude.”
When it comes to Smart, there is a good link there to Arnold, too. He has said many times that Kirby Smart being from Bainbridge matters. He understands where Arnold comes from.
He has said the biggest reason why he would choose UGA would be Smart, too.
If the Bulldogs are the pick, they plan to deploy him in a similar manner as the Tide.
“Corner, STAR and Kirby is really big on special teams and giving me the ball in my hands so a lot of special teams," he said late last month.
What's the relationship there with Nick Saban like compared to Smart?
"Kirby is like 30 minutes away from where I am from," Arnold said. "He can relate to me in a lot of different things. He still has his youth to him. He's more hands-on and he's more energetic and things like that. But Nick Saban, he's like blunt. He's been through the recruiting game before. He doesn't sell you lies. He tells you what it is. And for him to be still recruiting me this late in the recruiting game and he's at Alabama shows how bad they want me."
He might be the only class of 2021 high school prospect that Georgia might take. Alabama might be down to Arnold and another 5-star defensive lineman for their class.
Terrion Arnold: Does he feel a tug to play close to home?
There's a popular theory that Arnold wants to stay close to home with his eventual decision. An observer can see where that might come from. Pope John Paul II coach Ed Hill has detailed how important family is to Arnold in the past.
He's always seen several members of his family at every team event, including daily practices and games.
"Family is like all you've got," Arnold said. "I'm tight with my family. Stuff has happened with my family that has kind of shaped me. Being close to those four or five people in my family. So, like I've told them Florida State is my dream school. If I could have gone to Florida State, I would have been a hard commit at Florida State."
But FSU is not built to win right now. He's aware of their roster and foreseeable playing future.
"But ultimately it is business," he said. "I have friends I grew up with there. But I didn't want to be somebody who went to be a hometown hero thing and was forgotten. They don't really have any big-time receivers who will grow and challenge me. It would be like high school all over again. My biggest thing is I need to go to an SEC school. That's why I chose the top five I chose. I don't need to go somewhere I can rebuild. I need to go somewhere I can be with the best of the best."
Arnold values being a part of a winning culture. He wants to adapt to those winning habits before's ready to play on Sundays. Alabama certainly stands out there. He knows that is what he will need.
He shared a thought that might counter the notion that location will swing his decision.
"My family they travel," Arnold said. "My uncle played at Cincinnati and they traveled. My grandparents still went to go see him play. Drove that 16-hour drive. My auntie played in Kentucky and they still went and saw her play."
It will be interesting to see what Arnold does on Signing Day. I've been told that his ceremony and decision announcement will resemble a popular recent Super Bowl commercial.
"I really go big or go home," Arnold said.
He's the type of recruit that does not beg for or need constant attention. He will often place his phone on "Do Not Disturb" mode when he feels he needs a break.
"Some kids have to feel wanted and stuff like that," the 17-year-old Arnold said. "That's not me. I know how good I am I don't need coaches selling me that over-the-top stuff like that."
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