Ohio State’s Damon Arnette comes to grips with wrist injury
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The moment that altered Damon Arnette's senior season occurred during the second week of training camp in August.
The Ohio State cornerback tried to poke the ball out of the grasp of running back J.K. Dobbins.
Rather than force a fumble, the attempt bent his wrist at a 90-degree angle.
“I finished that practice, though, by the way,” Arnette said.
The broken right wrist never prompted Arnette to miss much. Except for a mid-November game at Rutgers, he has played in every game for the Buckeyes this season.
For most of the fall, Arnette wore either a brace or cast over his right hand that makes press coverage more difficult. When matching up with a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage, he can only use his hands so much.
“It's more my feet that I have to try to use,” Arnette said.
He had surgery on the wrist during an off-week in October and has had to manage the pain from a screw placed in his right hand.
He described the feeling as when a splash of a cold drink touches a dental crown, setting off a sort of tingling sensation.
“It's that feeling times five” when the wrist is jostled, Arnette said.
While Jeff Okudah, the other outside cornerback in the Buckeyes’ secondary, has garnered more attention as one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award — which goes to the nation’s top defensive back — Arnette has put together a productive season as well.
Arnette has one interception and has broken up seven passes, tied with Okudah for second-most on the team behind slot corner Shaun Wade’s eight.
In pass coverage, Arnette has allowed 22 completions while being targeted 51 times (45.1 percent); Okudah has surrendered 22 completions on 48 targets (45.8 percent), according to statistics collected by Pro Football Focus.
The Buckeyes need both to continue their high level of performance when they match up with Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday night. The Tigers feature a talented trio of receivers: Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers.
To preserve Arnette’s health, co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley has rested him during games, usually for a couple of plays.
“He tries to baby me a little bit,” Arnette said. “But that's my guy; he knows what’s best. I trust him with everything. So I don’t ever question anything that he says.”
As he reflected on his senior season earlier this month, Arnette wanted to pause and think back only so much.
Games still remained.
“I’m just trying to keep my head down until we run through the finish line,” he said, “and then I’ll be able to look up and see what I’ve played through and what we've accomplished.”