“I caught on really fast,” Arnold said. “I’ve got a few things I still need to pick up, because they’re throwing new stuff in there.”
The 5-10, 190-pound sophomore just wants to be on the field. He doesn’t care if it’s on offense, defense or special teams. He’s got tremendous range, versatility and loves to hit.
If Arnold could play both ways, he would. But for now, he’s making the most of his opportunity at safety, and maybe a little special teams.
He’s also a student of the game, who not only picks up things fast, he does them fast.
“We’re going to give him the opportunity to do those things, but right now we want him to focus on learning the back end working with Kareen [Taylor],” John Bunting said. “D.J. [Walker]’s a good teacher, too. Cooter plays fast and [they’re] helping him play fast. I don’t care how good or talented you are, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to play slow.”
Just the second freshman in Tar Heel history to start the first game of the season since Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice did it in 1946 (Brandon Russell was the other in 2000), Arnold rushed for 28 yards on nine carries at Georgia Tech.
He had team highs of 11 carries and 64 yards at Louisville, averaged 3.5 yards per carry in UNC’s 31-17 victory over Utah, with eight carries for 28 yards and a 15-yard pass reception. That catch came on a 2nd and 22. Carolina then converted the third down and later scored a field goal.
Now he can be seen catching passes on the practice field, and taking them in the other direction. Carolina fans hope he duplicates those feats during the season.
“My confidence is very high,” Arnold said. “Whenever I’m out there I’m in the zone, and I just concentrate on what I need to do. I get to the ball. I just do my best to get to the ball.
“I make mistakes every now and then, but everybody does, and I just try to correct them.”
When he looks for direction from the sideline, Arnold turns to UNC defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders, who impresses him with his never-ending enthusiasm.
“Whenever he’s out there he’s pumped up all the time,” Arnold said. “He likes putting a lot of pressure on us to see if we can stand up to it.”
Opposing receivers and ball carriers will also put pressure on Arnold this year. That’s why he’s working hard now to get up to speed at his new position.
“I really have to step it up and get it down," Arnold said, "so I know when I’m out there what I’m supposed to do.”