Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va
Virginia safety Quin Blanding was named a second-team All American by USA Today as a sophomore in 2015. He enters his junior season on more award watch lists than we can count: Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe, just to name a few. Blanding has started every game since arriving on grounds in 2014, and he’ll be counted on to bring veteran leadership and elite talent to the UVa defense this season.
Blanding has finished in the top two in tackles among ACC defenders each of the last two seasons. He was surpassed last year only by teammate Micah Kiser. His experience and ability should help the Hoos transition to their new 3-4 defense under Bronco Mendenhall. The new Virginia coach has been effusive in his praise of his prize defender.
“He’s really smart, he doesn’t waste any steps, he knows exactly what to do, he communicates well and he has the capability to cover and tackle,” Mendenhall told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “I think Quin is an exceptional player, he works really hard at it; I like him a lot.”
We’ve said multiple times that the strength of this year’s defense will be up the middle: Donte Wilkins at NT, Kiser at ILB, and Blanding in the backfield. Kiser spoke to reporters recently about how the three players work together.
“Donte’s extremely vocal, he’s probably the heartbeat of the defense,” Kiser told the Washington Post. “I like to be the calming, guiding light. And Quin’s just like, the dude back there, that’s just what he does. So us three being on a string has been really key.”
If Virginia is going to make the quick turnaround to bowl eligibility under Mendenhall, Blanding will need to continue his All-American production. While the Hoos have plenty of talent, few players bring what Quin does to the team - and considering the lack of depth at a number of key positions, his reliable production and continued growth will be essential for Virginia to be succeed this fall. It's fair to assume that All American safeties don't expect to miss the postseason for their entire careers. Look for Blanding to be a key figure in UVA’s climb to ACC dominance (or at least relevance).