The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Arrington learns, waits for starting role for Bulldogs

Emma Katherine Hutto

MSU’s Dee Arrington tracks down an Alcorn State player during Saturday’s home opening win against the Braves.

When Dee Arrington arrived to the Mississippi State University football program in the fall of 2011, he was not quite sure what to expect. Now, as he enters his junior year, Arrington has learned his role as a team player in order to earn a starting position.

After an explosive senior season on offense and defense at Stone County High School earning All-American honors, Arrington landed at MSU after turning down offers from Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas Tech. Once he arrived on campus, he was listed as a defensive back. But when time came to step on the field in Maroon and White, he quickly learned he had a long way to go before he could start for the Bulldogs.

“I knew I had to just come up here to learn from all the older guys ahead of me,” Arrington recalled of his freshman year. “They were that much ahead of me, so I always asked them questions and tried to figure out what they were doing, how they read plays or what they do in situations. I tried to learn everything possible to step my game up that much more.”

Arrington said the most difficult transition was understanding he would play a smaller role on the team. With defensive backs such as Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay and Corey Broomfield ahead of him, Arrington was able to watch and learn from veterans and now shares his experience with younger players.

“When I came in, they all had to teach me. It is now basically communication on the back end,” he said. “As long as everyone is talking, we’re on the same page. We’re together.”

Arrington spent his freshman year on special teams. He played in nine games, made nine tackles and collected five solo tackles in the 2011 season. Although he was highly recruited as a top Mississippi prospect in high school, he said his first year observing on the sidelines served as a valuable learning experience, and he settled in well with the defensive system.

“When I came up here it was going to be just defense for me. In high school, I played both sides. I always loved defense, so it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “Only thing was, I wasn’t playing on defense. I had to learn to play on special teams. At first, I felt kind of bad sitting on the sideline, but I knew that was my job — sitting over there on the sideline learning how to play the game the right way. It’s nothing now.”

In his sophomore season, Arrington saw action in all 13 games and tallied 18 tackles. Through two seasons he played 22 games, brought his total tackles to 27 and was credited with a fumble recovery. Safeties coach Tony Hughes said Arrington continues to develop intangible skills to play a secondary defensive position.

“He has a great deal more confidence now. Being in the system now for three years, he has developed,” Hughes said of the junior. “He was one of those kids who did a little bit of everything in high school. He was a quarterback, running back and defensive back. So, now he’s learning how to play one position and all of the ins-and-outs of that position.”

Entering his third year at MSU, Arrington was listed behind Nickoe Whitley on the depth chart. But throughout fall camp, coaches expected him to see more of him on the field defensively.

Arrington finally got his opportunity as he stepped on the field for a defensive series in the season opener against Oklahoma State. He recorded seven tackles and a pass-breakup. After Whitley was listed as doubtful following the game, he earned his first career start for the Dogs against Alcorn State.

Arrington played most of the first half Saturday and tallied one tackle in the win against the Braves. He gave way for younger players to gain experience in the second half, but coaches still expect him to see more of the field before season’s end.

“He’s in his third year, and he’s been an outstanding special teams player,” Hughes said. “He’s been a great team player and now, ‘It’s my time to shine, I’m ready coach. Put me on the field. I’m ready to go out there and make plays.’”

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Arrington learns, waits for starting role for Bulldogs