The good recruiting news kept rolling in yesterday when North Carolina cornerback Robert Blanton committed to Notre Dame during his visit to South Bend this week. Yet another talented defensive player in this recruiting class of 2008, Blanton is the eigth defensive recruit this year and the first defensive back.
The 6'1", 175 pound Blanton was named 1st Team All-State and Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a junior when he racked up 147 tackles, 7 interceptions, and three blocked punts. He chose the Irish over offers from Michigan, Georgia, Virginia Tech, NC State, South Carolina, and a number of other schools. On the recruiting sites, Blanton checks in as a member of Rivals.com's Top 100 list as a 4-star defensive back and the #4 overall safety in the 2008 class. Scout.com has him as a 4-star cornerback and the #8 corner in the class. ESPN.com has him listed as part of the Top 150 Watch List.
As you may have noticed, one recruiting site lists him at safety, while another at cornerback. ND apparently wants Blanton at corner, which leads me to believe the Irish are looking at fielding bigger, more physical corners for Corwin Brown's defense. After watching the Southern Cal and LSU corners disrupt the Irish passing game by roughing up Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija at the line of scrimmage, bringing in bigger corners should help ND do the same.
Some think Blanton is a merely a safety in cornerback's clothing, and while that may come to pass, the reasoning seems to be his speed. He's not a blazing fast cover corner. However, despite the common recruiting fixation with 40 times, speed isn't everything at cornerback. One easy example of this is Shane Walton, who was never terribly fast, but had great instincts and technique that turned him into a 1st Team All-American corner. That's not to say Blanton will turn into another Shane Walton, but it's just something to consider when debating if he's "fast enough" to play corner.
You can check out Blanton's highlights here. One recent recruiting update summarized Blanton as follows:
Blanton has a nose for the football, along with impeccable coverage skills at the cornerback position. He doesn't waste motion or steps very often, and he is a vicious hitter, often knocking the ball away from opposing receivers and backs. At the high school level, Blanton is the type of cornerback that opposing coaches try to shy away from, because he has the potential to force a turnover whenever he is in the vicinity of the football.In addition to football, Blanton also runs track where he was named 1st team all-area in the high jump after finishing 2nd in the state. He also recently participated in the Nike Outdoor National Championships as part of the "Emerging Elite" sub-division. Here's a video clip of him running the Finals of the 110M hurdles (lane 3).
With young players like Darrin Walls, Raeshon McNeil, Munir Prince, Gary Gray, and now Robert Blanton, the Irish secondary has a collection of athletic corners that it hasn't had in a long time. Not all highly recruited cornerbacks turn into college stars, but having a depth chart full of them certainly does improve the odds that at least one will. And if Corwin Brown's impact on defensive play is anywhere near his impact on recruiting, then the days of ND's secondary being a national punchline are hopefully over.