Virginia Beach (VA) Bayside
6-foot-2, 206 pounds
Rankings: Five-star (6.1). No. 5 overall in the Rivals100, No. 1 safety in the class of 2014, No. 2 in the Virginia Postseason Top 35.
Other offers: With dozens of offers, he ultimately picked the Cavaliers in February 2013 over Florida State and Ohio State.
How he chose UVa: The Wahoos have dominated at Bayside High School in recent year, nabbing the best Marlin in each of the past five classes. And Blanding, who is now reunited with Taquan Mizzell and Demetrious Nicholson, knew all along that he wanted to commit to Virginia.
While he was already a well known player on the national scene, he tired of the process. In early February last year, just as the ink on the 2013 letters of ink was still drying, Blanding took a quiet visit to Charlottesville, and then announced that he would announce his decision before the end of the month.
Why he matters: While UVa appeared to be well positioned for Blanding and Brown and a number of in-state players in the 2014 classes, the Bayside playmaker was the first to pull the trigger and ultimately he legitimized the ensuing class behind him.
"He has incredible range, great instincts, and he hits like a linebacker and covers like a safety," Rivals.com's Mike Farrell said of Blanding. "He is also a natural born leader, he will be a team captain at UVa sooner than later, and he's the kind of player that raises his game when needed, never quits, and always works hard.
"His athletic skills-speed, ball skills, coverage instincts, run support-make him a top player and his attitude and leadership make him a top five player," Farrell added.
Farrell, who said during Bayside's game against Ocean Lakes this past season that Blanding would be the No. 1 player in the country if he played another position, says that being an impact player in the secondary comes down to several key pieces that Blanding does well.
"How do you see the field? How quickly do you react? Do you avoid false steps and misreading the play and are you willing to come up and smack someone in run support and make them pay down the middle of the field in the passing game?" Farrell explained. "Blanding has all of those attributes."
At the time of his commitment, Blanding was the highest-rated commit for the Cavaliers since Eugene Monroe in 2005. And he gave UVa its first back-to-back class with a five-star commit in the modern era. Though rankings fluctuate, Blanding never slipped out of the top five nationally and was the top safety in the country wire to wire.
With Anthony Harris, who led the nation in interceptions last year, returning for his senior season this fall, Blanding has the possibility of forming a lethal tandem at the position and will surely battle for a starting spot from Day 1 this fall.