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May 22, 2013

Blanding likes role in UVa's class

When the Rivals100 was updated this week, five-star safety Quin Blanding remained the nation's top committed prospect. And the future Wahoo couldn't be happier now, nearly three months after picking UVa.

The time since then has been spent working out and doing some recruiting of his own. With the camp circuit in full swing, the No. 4-overall prospect in the country says he wants to add to Virginia's recruiting class.

"Everybody keeps calling me Mr. Recruiter or whatever," Blanding told CavsCorner with a smile this weekend. "I have been doing some of that, that's true. I've been sticking on guys like Derrick [Nnadi] and Andrew [Brown] and Jamil [Kamara]. I've been on them hard. Steven Moss got [his decision] out of the way so that was one less I had to work on. But I've been staying up with him too to make sure everything's good and we're going after the guys we want to join us at UVa."

The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Bayside standout remains the top safety in America. He's been invited to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and The Opening, two of the three premier summer camps. While he awaits his invite for Gridiron Kings, he's able to focus on his craft.

"I want to work on my breakdowns," he began. "I have a quick breakdown but on comebacks and curls, I want to keep making it quicker because in a game, if you have to check somebody in the slot, you have to be ready for that. If he does an out or a comeback, I have to plant and go get it instead of pausing and then going and catching up for it. I want to be faster at that, keeping my hips open and fluid, and just going from there."

There's no doubt he spends some time too recruiting other recruits. And that can be a slippery slope, Blanding explained. It's an art not to press too hard but also to make sure you're on top of things.

He says he talks to his good friends and UVa targets whenever he can but he's also not overbearing about it.

"It depends, it really does," he said. "Sometimes I just let it go by and just let them think about stuff because I don't want to put too much pressure on them all the time. I mean, I know how that was.

"I don't feel like I want to be pressuring anyone to go somewhere if they don't feel comfortable. I let them think about it, let them get comfortable, and then I step in and keep on answering questions and stuff."

If he had to venture a guess, who would Blanding think might be the next of the friends he's recruiting to make a decision?

"The next one? The one I think will probably be the next one would be Andrew," he said. "I have no idea, it's just a gut feeling. At first, I would have said Jamil but it's a little different now. He doesn't talk about recruiting as much anymore. I've got faith and I hope he picks Virginia. He's like family to me and he knows I'm going to support him no matter what. I just hope it's Virginia. And I think it will be in time."

UVa's approach with Blanding, as with his former high school teammate Taquan Mizzell, was simple.

"I know other schools are in there, they're trying to promise this and offer that," he said. "End of the day, I just feel like Virginia's going to have the real, true basis for something special. When you get there and you see it for yourself and see where the coaches are coming from, it's an easy decision.

"They're not telling you, 'Oh, we did this and we're going to do this and do that again.' No, they're telling you, 'Come here and together we can do something special. We're going to compete. We're going to win the ACC Championship.' There's a realness there and I just hope that's where they all choose to be."

Is there any part of him that wants to hurry up time so he can get to Charlottesville sooner, joining his friends on the team and guys like Mizzell who he's been with for what seems like forever?

"To be honest, yeah, I do think sometimes that I wish we could all get there at the same time," Blanding said. "I just feel like there's nothing better than playing alongside the people you grew up with. I understand when I make it up there they'll still be there but I just feel like if we could all come in at the same time, at the same speed, with everybody knowing what they're doing and ready to play, we could start building this thing up early. On the other hand, I also kind of do like that it will take its time some because that's more time I get to spend with my family and teammates."

Will it be weird to be at Bayside without "Smoke" there?

"That's the question everybody is asking me," Blanding responded. "It's going to be weird, being without all of the seniors that were there, really. It's going to feel weird because we're always together, in the hallways, in practice, getting ready for the big games together. I know they're all going places and doing things so I'm just happy for them."

Though he's been unable to commit to the Rivals Challenge because it is prom weekend, hitting those types of events is a big plus for Blanding. It's really the only piece left of the recruiting world he wants to hold on to other than taking visits to UVa and getting his friends to come with him.

"It probably hasn't slowed down completely like I thought it would," he said of his recruitment. "It feels good knowing I'm committed and being able to tell anybody that asks where I'll be and that I'll be sticking with that. I'm not going anywhere else. This is it for me. I got a few calls not too long ago, though, from coaches just to say 'Hey if something changes.' You know that talk. It doesn't matter, though."

One thing that becomes a badge of honor for fans after a highly-ranked prospect like Blanding picks their school is that he keeps the lofty ranking. Does it matter to him as much as it might matter to those on the outside?

"Just talking to folks that have been with you for so long, your family and friends and all, there hasn't been a safety as highly ranked as me in a long time and I know I owe a lot of them and my teammates for helping me get here," he noted. "Rankings are a source of pride, ya know? Once you're there, you want to prove yourself and hang on to it.

"I feel like this is what I've worked for and it's the history I'm ready to change. It's something that I've got to hold on to. Those hours you put in, you work to be the best of the best. Working out, going over film, going over your own film."

What have his experiences been like when it comes to interactions with fans?

"Man, it's been great" Blanding said. "The Virginia fans I run into have been so excited and they show me so much love. You see them supporting you online and you can see that it really is a great school. They're ready for me to be a Wahoo and it makes you feel good and you know you made the right decision when folks like that have your back."


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