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June 12, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National High School Sports Analyst for Rivals. Email him your questions and comments at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside safety Quin Blanding is not a fan of the politics of rankings. He realizes the rankings are subjective and would rather people didn't make assumptions about his game.
That's why he's so active in the summer camp circuit and it is why he immediately accepted his invitation to the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.
"Rankings are very important," he said. "(But) I don't like the politics of it, so I want to make sure I go out and show where I belong. I want people to know what I can do and not see a couple clips of my best plays and the hype.
"I want to go out and compete for it. I want to be for real."
With 20 major college football offers, there are few doubters that Blanding is anything but real.
The inaugural event to be held June 22-24 at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta is yet another platform for Blanding to show what he is made of. The entire Rivals.com team of analysts and videographers will be on hand to take in the event.
"It is a big opportunity," Blanding said. "I have to show I can play with the big kids."
Not that Blanding plans to sit at the little kids' table, but of the 100 invitees, he is one of only 20 participants from the Class of 2014.
He also just turned 16 at the beginning of May.
"Being young isn't an excuse," he said. "I was asked to be there and show what I can do. My hard work was rewarded and using my age as an excuse is not what I am about."
Being able to play in the talent-laden Tidewater area of Virginia has helped Blanding develop his confidence with the knowledge that his ability would be discovered much easier than other, more remote parts, of his homestate.
"It is a perfect mix for me," he said. "Knowing that so many guys have come out of here makes you believe you can do it but hearing them all say that you still have to get your work in pushed me to do it for myself and not just rely on the reputation of the area.
"If anything, it made me want to work harder because I knew what was possible for me."
Right now, anything is possible for Blanding, who has his choice of schools with an offer list that is likely to grow as he matures.
According to the 6-foot-2, 196-pounder, maturation at his position is the next step in his development.
"I get excited pretty easily," Blanding said. "Sometimes I lunge at the line and I can get beat, and sometimes I will stay on the quarterback's eyes too long and then I am a step off my coverage. I am always looking to get better, but I think those fundamentals and technique things are where I need to work."
As far as his expectations for the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, Blanding believes he can keep his emotions in check and play his game.
"I will be focused for it," he said. "I want to be a top performer. I know that if I relax and play my game I will see everything and I can pick off anything.
"I am going to get recognized. That is my goal every time out."
Mike Farrell's take
Blanding is special, plain and simple, and he's only a 2014 prospect. Look for a big safety with hips and a backpedal like a cornerback who is also physical, and you have Blanding. He has a natural feel for the game, he can man up in press or play off, and he closes on the ball well. He's quietly confident and knows he can hold his own at this event and while Da'Shawn Hand and Andrew Brown have been getting most of the ink in Virginia for the 2014 class, Blanding is quietly moving up the charts.
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