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Terrion Arnold/Courtesy photo
Terrion Arnold is a major target for Georgia in the 2021 cycle.

Terrion Arnold: Kirby Smart had very ‘high praise’ for the nation’s No. 2 safety

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry provides a good look into why Florida 4-star DB Terrion Arnold remains a priority for the 2021 class in Athens. There is a lot of information to convey here. 

Terrion Arnold is tight with David Daniel and Xavian Sorey Jr.

Those are important names in the ideal 2021 class for Georgia. Arnold and Daniel became fast friends from their brief 7-on-7 season prior to the pandemic. They were both members of Cam Newton’s team. Daniel has been a UGA commit for almost a year now.

Arnold and Sorey grew up near one another in Florida. They are from the same community backgrounds.

There are a lot of names that will pop up in the recruiting story for Arnold. When LSU recruits him, he said the national champs point out the parallels with sophomore phenom Derek Stingley Jr. in the pitch. Miami’s coaches bring up the hallowed game of Sean Taylor.

When Newton had him on his 7-on-7 team, he told Arnold he was special. Ed Hill, his coach at John Paul II Catholic in Tallahassee, will call to mind the name of another great player.

“He reminds me of Deion Sanders,” Hill said.

Hill had a cousin who was a friend of the future Hall of Fame cornerback when he was coming up.

“So I met Deion early and watched Deion play,” Hill said. “Terrion reminds me of Deion Sanders. He’s just as talented on the basketball court as he is on the football field or the track. Literally, whatever this kid does, it looks like he’s been doing it since he was five years old. It reminds me of Deion whenever he stepped to the plate in baseball. He looked like he had been playing baseball his whole life.”

That’s some serious name dropping for the nation’s No. 2 safety on 247Sports. Arnold rates as the nation’s No. 9 safety and No. 186 player overall on the 247Sports Composite. (Insider note: That latter ranking would be a lot higher right now in a normal recruiting cycle and evaluation period.)

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior from Tallahassee has basketball offers from several SEC schools, too. He played in a few of the same elite AAU tournaments as former Georgia star Anthony “Ant-Man” Edwards. He said he has been timed as low as 10.7 seconds in the 100 meters.

There was that a play last fall when he zigged and zagged for a long kickoff return only to see it called back. What did Arnold do when the opponent chose to kick again? He took that effort to the pay dirt, too.

He stated that he has about a 10-15 offers to just be a receiver. That’s why his highlight film is 11:30 long. And it is mostly pure gold. The type where a Power 5 recruiter could randomly pull clips at the 2, 3, 6, 7 and 9-minute marks and quickly offer without having to see all six of those.

Check out his junior film below. Grab some popcorn. It is a fun watch.

He makes plays in all three phases. He can run, hit and cover and has ball skills. The way he can elevate for the football is very impressive.

“High praise” from UGA for Terrion Arnold

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has seen those clips. That’s why he speaks to Arnold two to three times per week. That’s more than any other head coach out of a stout group with Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M pursuing him the heaviest right now.

There are two quick Georgia elements to focus on first here. The first came in the answer to a question about the first place he would go if the NCAA allowed recruits on campus again.

“I think Georgia will be the first school I visit,” Arnold said. “Hands down.”

It might have something to do with how Smart and Charlton Warren are recruiting him. And maybe what Smart told him about what he could do at UGA.

“Kirby kind of gave me some high praise,” Arnold said. “He was saying ‘I know you are going to win the Jim Thorpe Award and be a Heisman [Trophy] finalist contender’ so that was really big. I said ‘Wow, that is a lot to live up to’ with that.”

Hill, his varsity coach, thinks he will be a safety in college. Warren has told him he will start out working at cornerback but might switch to free safety. That is so he can affect more than one side of the field. Alabama and LSU both see him as a lockdown cornerback.

Georgia also sees him making plays in the return game. That’s what Arnold would love to do. That was what got Michigan legend Charles Woodson a Heisman Trophy, too.

The Bulldogs must replenish some elite secondary talent in the 2021 class. They should see at least five of their top-shelf defensive backs move on to the NFL after the 2020 season.

“I would say the coaches at Georgia kept it real,” Arnold said. “They didn’t just tell me lies or anything. They were just saying I will come in and make an immediate impact and be able to play right away. They just let me know off the rip I will have to work for everything and earn everything. They said they will put their best guys on the field. So I really liked that.”

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Terrion Arnold-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Terrion Arnold wants to return kicks in college, too. He also has an interest in walking on to the basketball team. (Terrion Arnold/Courtesy photo)

The day Kirby Smart personally offered Terrion Arnold

Arnold knew about Georgia football growing up because he had an aunt who lived in Albany. He would visit her when he was younger and learn about the Bulldogs.

It seems there is a strong relationship between Arnold and Smart. Arnold knows Smart grew up just 30 minutes outside of Tallahassee with his Bainbridge South Georgia roots. The 4-star DB also knows Smart played defensive back at Georgia, too.

He likes that.

When he visited last November for the Missouri game, he had these words to describe that trip: “Amazing. Electric. Surprising.”

“The hospitality was a 10 out of 10,” he said back in November. “The visit was definitely a 10 out of 10. I loved it. I enjoyed it. I will definitely be back for camp.”

Georgia treated him like he was the only elite recruit in the stands. He had a personal chaperone. When Smart made it to the locker room, Arnold and his group were the first people he spoke to after he addressed the team.

He’ll never forget that moment. Smart came into his office, sat in a chair and kicked his feet up.

“I was like ‘Oh man he’s cool’ with all of that,” Arnold said. “That was what was going through my mind.”

Arnold had broken his ankle during his sophomore year. So his junior year was the breakout. He remembers that Smart told him that his recruiting was now moving like it was shot from a cannon.

He already had more than 25 offers that day. But Smart wanted to offer him face-to-face.

“We sat in his office,” Arnold said. “We were talking about life. Like we were sitting at a restaurant getting food. Then he pulled the trigger and offered. My uncle loved him. He said he loved him so much he said he made it feel like he was the recruit the way they greeted us. So it was amazing. I loved it.”

Georgia even woke up their camera crew so Arnold could get a photoshoot and a tour of the locker room on game day. The Bulldog recruiting machine was firing on every cylinder.

“Then they sent them to us the same day within three hours,” Arnold said. “The pictures were awesome. If you look at them, they were amazing.”

Terrion Arnold-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Terrion Arnold was offered personally by Kirby Smart at the Missouri game last fall. (Terrion Arnold/Courtesy photo)

Terrion Arnold: That David Daniel connection

The relationships with Smart and Warren aren’t the only ones of note. There’s the kinship he has already established with Daniel.

“Man, David and I are tight,” Arnold said. “I was going to try to go on an unofficial visit to Georgia pretty soon but I didn’t go because David wasn’t able to go. I’m kind of waiting for him.”

They built a bond during their brief time on Cam Newton’s team.

“I would be more like in the Deion category or the Cam category,” Arnold said. “The person who focuses on going out there and makes the big play but David is the person who brings you back home. Brings you back to Earth. He will say ‘Hey you made that play but now it is time to make another one’ who never lets anyone get too high.”

Terrion Arnold-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Terrion Arnold has become good friends with Georgia commit David Daniel over the last year. (Contributed photo)

“We kind of counter each other well and really feed off each other. I’m from Florida. He’s from Atlanta. We have two different playing styles but it is pretty unique.” 

What does Daniel tell him about Georgia?

“He tells me that it is really time to come on home,” Arnold said. “He says ‘You can benefit this program like crazy’ and he’s really saying like how Deion was at Florida State and that’s how it is when I sit down with the coaching staff. They are like you can come now and be that DB who has that big impact.”

Daniel has impressed Arnold through his humility.

“He told me that he’s okay with not being that top priority or player in the defense,” Arnold said. “He said he’s okay with being a good counter to me. He’s not a person who needs to have that spotlight on him at all times. He’s a real humble dude. Just one of those guys who comes from a good family and just a great person to be around.” 

The other parallel between the two is a constant work ethic.

“He does the same things that I do,” Arnold said. “Early in the morning workouts and looks forward to it. He is one of those guys like me. He sees it the way I do. When I go to college, I will have a mission and obligation for my family to just always carry it out. I won’t be the type to be going to all the parties and stuff. I would rather be in the gym or working on my craft. Just one of those guys. I will have that reputation and he’s the same type of player. We will motivate each other.”

There’s also that “tight” relationship with Sorey.

“We’re kind of looking at the same schools,” Arnold said. “We see something at Georgia with Kirby Smart. The way he makes things seem. The new practice and team facilities they are building and just being around the players there and around the coaching staff and that culture.”

Arnold is sharp. He does realize not all prospects that tease they are a package with another elite recruit work out that way.

“We really want to go and play together but if it happens, it happens,” Arnold said. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But as far as chemistry and stuff and the type of people we are, we are pretty much the same. With him staying in Graceville which is right by me and we grew up in the same area, we do want to go and play together if it works out.” 

What is he looking for in a college fit? 

Arnold would have liked to have cut his decision down to a top 12 or top 15 in the spring. In a pre-pandemic world, he planned some unofficial and official visits in the spring. It would allow him to get down to five top schools prior to his senior season.

“As of right now, I kind of have to go on previous visits I have been on with my unofficial visits,” he said. “It has kind of delayed the process there. If it had been a normal year, I probably would have known where I was going by the end of my senior season but now my decision has been pushed back to like National Signing Day.”

That’s the one in February.

“I think with being able to perform at the camps that I did I’ve put myself in the position as one of the top defensive backs and the top players in the country,” he said. “I put myself in a position where I can take my time. I’ve been talking to a lot of schools and they are saying how they are willing to wait for me. They know I’m that type of game-changer. They know I’m that type of guy who is going to have a big impact on their program.”

Arnold has a formula in mind of what he is looking for.

  • Competition level – “You practice more than you play,” he said. “Practice is what prepares you for the games. If you are not going up against the best of the best, then you are not going to be prepared to go against the best of the best.”
  • Coaching staff and relationships – “How the coaches react around each other. Do they like being around each other or are they just guys there?”
  • Head coach stability – “He controls everything. Is his job secure? Do I see him around for another five years?” His uncle was a scholarship RB at Cincinnati when a coaching change occurred. The new coach wanted to give the reps to his new guys. He wants no part of a situation like that. 
  • Name, Image and Likeness: “How is that team going to help you benefit from that?” Arnold has a keen mind for business. His grandfather owns a roofing company. He aims to major in business finance. The goal is to make the money he makes work for him as an additional income. That’s why he already understands the stock market. He doesn’t want his only income to come from his grind on the football field. He wants to use his money to invest in his future. 

Arnold knows all these top 10 programs want him and need him because of the way they recruit him. Those schools are all hitting him up constantly.

“I know they are recruiting me but I also want to see them have a well-thought-out plan for me,” he said.

Terrion Arnold-Georgia recruiting-Georgia football
Terrion Arnold said he has received some pretty high praise from Georgia coach Kirby Smart. (Terrion Arnold/Courtesy photo)

What does Terrion Arnold like best about Georgia? 

He answered that above topic clearly. It is the competition level in Athens.

“They said when I first get there I will be covering George Pickens non-stop,” Arnold said. “That’s just preparing me to go out there week-in and week-out to go out there and cover the other team’s best defender.”

“I will be facing their best offensive threat. Then even in the kick return and punt return, I can be dangerous in there.”

There’s a point in this narrative where something might have gotten lost. Hearing these big names like Cam Newton and Deion Sanders and iconic awards like The Jim Thorpe and Heisman Trophy are the stuff of college football legend.

Such heights are far from the usual fodder for a high school All-American. Even one as talented as Arnold. The fact he is talented enough to sign for a football program in the SEC and then walk-on and play for their basketball teams show how special of an athlete he is.

But this is also a grounded young man. Hill explains why with three quick points.

“He’s the hardest-working guy you will have in your locker room,” Hill said. “Hands down. This is a kid that is up at 5:30 in the morning. Running and working out. A kid that will work out after school and will then work out with a personal trainer at 7 o’clock at night. He is the hardest-working kid you will find. Period.”

“I’ve done this for a very long time and I have not seen a kid with the work ethic and the motor that he has. It is just unbelievable.”

He would know. The relationship goes back to when Arnold and his youngest son were on the same Pop Warner teams. That’s when they were six years old.  

Hill will rave about the way he studies the game and his sharp football mind with recruiters. Arnold can break down the game of just about any elite player in college or pro football.

But his favorite story is what the sidelines have looked like for Arnold at every practice or game since 2008.

“I tell everybody that ‘T ‘is a family guy,” Hill said. “Whenever he laces up those shoes I don’t care if it is for basketball, football or track or what you can look to the sidelines and you will see his grandmother, his grandfather, his mom, his stepdad, his uncle and his cousins. You will see his entire family on the sidelines. I’ve coached Terrion since he was six years old and I’ve never seen a game or a practice that someone wasn’t there for him. He is a true family guy.”

The program that signs him doesn’t have to sell him. Just show him they are a family.

“Let him see that and you will have a shot,” Hill said. 

Those stories might just be the foundation of where all this “high praise” comes from.

“He is a better person than he is an athlete,” Hill said. “He’s just a great kid. It is hard to find both of those things in the same person. He’s going to be an asset to somebody. There are about three or four kids that I have told that as long as they stay healthy they will play on Saturdays and Sundays and he’s one of those kids.”

SENTELL’S INTEL

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