Hometown (School): Virginia Beach, VA (Bayside)
Height/Weight: 6'2" 209 lbs
Committed to Virginia: 2/27/13
Lead Recruiter: Chip West/Anthony Poindexter
The 2014 recruiting class is likely going to be remembered as Brown and Blanding. The B-boys. If both players reach their (considerable) ceilings, they could lead the Hoos to heights the Hoos haven't seen in a decade. While the two players will forever be linked in the minds of Virginia fans, and there are similarities, their games are vastly different.
While Brown is a "big ugly", down in the trenches, Blanding is a skill position guy, one of the glory players. He played WR and DB in high school, but has been recruited almost exclusively as a safety. He could end up at either FS or SS (or even ultimately at OLB if he fills out his frame), but he'll start out at FS. He's got great range to play CF and has tremendous ball skills. He has the cover skills to match a slot WR man to man, but also has the size to stay with a TE. He can come up on the ball, but he can also turn and play the deep ball with equal ability. Blanding was ranked 10th by ESPN, #4 by Rivals and #15 by Scout.
Here is a video of Blanding's senior highlights.
You'll notice that almost all of these highlights are of Blanding filling gaps and making tackles against running backs. There's an early interception what amounts to a Hail Mary pass. Blanding is as sure a tackler as you'll see from a high school DB. He's not really a big hitter, but he wraps up and brings down the ballcarrier. The highlight reel doesn't do justice to his cover skills or his ball skills. Make no mistake, though. He can do everything a safety needs to do.
While Brown is rated higher by many experts, and won all the state and national accolades, Blanding is likely the more ready prospect. This is largely due to position. DBs are generally more ready for the next level up than linemen. Considering the struggles Brandon Phelps has had, Blanding will almost definitely start at FS to open the season. Blanding and Harris should provide quite the ball-hawking duo this year.