UVA free safety Quin Blanding: ‘Hungry’ to win in 2015
Quin Blanding was everything UVA football fans expected him to be as a freshman, and more. The safety was a Freshman All-America after finishing second in the ACC with 123 tackles and leading the Cavs with three interceptions.
But now entering his sophomore season, the defense is his. The departure of senior free safety Anthony Harris means Blanding moves over to free safety, and is now responsible for defensive calls and adjustments on the back end.
It’s a big responsibility for a relatively young player, but Blanding is ready to step up into the new, expanded role.
“I think it will make me a better player than last year,” Blanding said. “Last year, I just played a certain way. I just could focus on where I had to go and what I had to do. Now I see the big picture of what everybody does, what the line is doing, what the linebackers are blitzing, who’s dropping, if the line is dropping back, who’s going down to the safety, who’s going to the post, what the corners have. I see the whole big picture, and I can pinpoint every little detail.”
Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta offered some tough love for his leader in talking with reporters at the team’s Media Day on Tuesday – a sign from the veteran coach that he thinks Blanding is something special.
“He’s not where everybody thinks he is, but let me tell you, he’s a damn good football player. Every day he wants to get better, and know the little things so that he can run the show on the back end like Anthony Harris did,” Tenuta said.
The coach then ticked off what he sees as Blanding’s weaknesses – saying Blanding lacks great speed and ball skills, “but those are things he works on.”
“He has a lot of ability. He knows what his weaknesses are, he knows what his strengths are. He develops his weaknesses and keeps coming, he will become a tremendous safety,” Tenuta said.
Blanding was quiet as a church mouse as a freshman, on the field and in the media room, but on Media Day this year he was, if not gregarious, at least quietly confident.
He said the Cavs are “hungry,” and that the team is heading into the 2015 season “with a drive to win.”
“We’re going to fight to the end,” said Blanding, adding that the defensive unit, despite losses to graduation and the NFL, is confident that it can improve on what was a solid 2014.
“That’s the most important thing. That’s all we focus on,” he said of the unit’s confidence in itself. “If you know the menu, then you’re good. That’s how (Coach Tenuta) tells us. If we know the menu and what they’re going to do, then we win. That’s how we’ve got to play. We’ve just got to be confident in what he calls, and we’ve got to execute the defense.”
AFP editor Chris Graham interviews UVA free safety Quin Blanding.