Blanding, secondary lead Cavalier defense
Alex Carson | Friday, September 11, 2015
When Cavaliers sophomore safety Quin Blanding was making his college decision, he had plenty of elite programs to choose from — the last two national champions recruited him, Florida State and Ohio State, and he had an offer on the table from Notre Dame.
The impressive offers were what you’d expect from a player considered by many rankings to have been the best safety in his class, but instead of heading to one of those programs, the Virginia Beach native stayed in state, making the move to Charlottesville and Mike London’s Virginia program.
And as a true freshman with the Cavaliers, Blanding didn’t disappoint. He led all freshmen nationally with 123 tackles and added three interceptions en route to ACC defensive rookie of the year and Freshman All-American honors.
This year, he was named to the preseason all-conference team, as well as being made a part of his squad’s “leadership council.”
Irish head coach Brian Kelly offered up his own praise of the defensive back ahead of the teams’ clash at Scott Stadium on Saturday.
“Quin Blanding is an outstanding player,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I think he was one of the better players in the conference last year.”
Blanding’s ability to both jam the run at the line of scrimmage and drop back into pass coverage makes him an integral cog in the motor that is defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta’s high-pressure scheme.
“[Tenuta] certainly is not a bend but don’t break defensive coordinator,” Kelly said. “He likes to be controlling tempo, and he’s aggressive.”
The Irish head coach later compared Tenuta, the Irish defensive coordinator in 2009, to current Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder,
“I think they both probably drink from the same well,” he said. “ … I think Brian and Jon would definitely both tell you they’d much rather be exotic and bring pressures if they could.”
Saturday marks a chance for the Cavaliers to respond after a lackluster defensive performance last week in a 34-16 loss at No. 13 UCLA, when Bruins true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut.
Virginia head coach Mike London said while his cornerbacks got beat deep in the season-opening loss, he wanted to see more pressure from his team against the No. 9 Irish on Saturday.
“You want to have a chance to affect the quarterback’s ability to not just stand in the pocket and have all day to throw with rushers, with stunts, with schemes,” London said. “ … We could not get to [Rosen] and apply enough pressure to affect his throws.
“ … Obviously, we have to do a better job in terms of the coverage standpoint, but it goes back to the pressure as well, the pass-rush pressure.”
And while it wasn’t the greatest of games on the field for the Virginia defense against UCLA, Blanding carried on as his usual self, recording 10 tackles in the loss. If the sophomore merely keeps the pace he’s set in the first 13 games of his career, he will break Jamie Sharper’s school record for career tackles midway through his senior campaign.
But at the end of the day, it’s a trying time for the Cavaliers program. While Blanding turned down offers from bigger programs for the culture London creates, the Virginia head coach is likely on the hot seat in Charlottesville — since being hired in December 2009, London’s squads have made just one bowl game and posted a 23-38 record. It’s led many to speculate as to whether or not he will make it through the season if the Cavaliers get off to a slow start.