5-star safety Quin Blanding is arguably the best safety recruit in the 2014 class, and he has just committed to Virginia.
This is a major recruiting win for Mike London and his staff, and it really is the perfect way for the Cavaliers to start off the 2014 cycle. This commitment is a marquee recruiting moment for Virginia, but it's also a huge statement by the ACC in general.
The ACC may not be on par with the SEC or Big Ten in terms of national football relevance or recruiting draw, but the conference is slowly but surely moving it's way back up that proverbial ladder, and it's nearing "destination" status in regards to the 2014 class.
Much of that has to do with the makeup of this class in general, and Blanding is one of its top recruits.
At least for now, it looks as if he'll be playing ACC football.
Blanding is the No. 1 ranked safety in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He has terrific size at 6'2'' and 200 pounds, and he runs a 4.50 40 according to 247Sports. He has the size to play strong safety at the line of scrimmage, and he's quick enough to be a deep zone or sideline-to-sideline player.
The importance of his commitment can't be overstated for Virginia, but let's get back to the ACC outlook.
The 2014 recruiting cycle could end up being the year of the ACC, and Blanding's commitment to Virginia is a huge way to kick that off.
Blanding is one of three 5-star players from the state of Virginia alone, with No. 1 overall recruit Da'Shawn Hand and 5-star defensive tackle Andrew Brown also hailing from ACC country. Hand has Virginia Tech in his top five (247Sports) and Brown has programs like Virginia Tech, Virginia and Clemson listed as "warm interests" on his, amongst others.
If all three of those players play in the ACC, that would be a huge coup for the conference. But there's also another huge factor to think about here: the state of Florida.
Two of the state's three major schools are ACC programs, Florida State and Miami, and both schools are set up to have big years on the recruiting trail.
The Hurricanes just landed 5-star running back Joseph Yearby (who flipped from Florida State) and there are several notable 5-star recruits that have a high interest in Miami. 5-star running back Sony Michel is the big name and the Hurricanes are in his top six (Georgia and Notre Dame are the top two right now). Miami is also in the top two for 5-star offensive tackle Kc McDermott, the top four for 5-star receiver Ermon Lane and the top five four 5-star inside linebacker Kain Daub (along with ACC programs like Florida State and North Carolina)
Miami could very well be on the verge of making a return to prominence, and the program is undoubtedly a historic draw with elite recruits.
Speaking of drawing in elite recruits, Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles are starting to make a habit of that. Fisher landed 5-star outside linebacker Matthew Thomas and flipped 5-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey from USC in the 2013 cycle. 2014 is shaping up to be just as good, if not better.
Fisher and his staff have the chance to put together one of the best recruiting classes in the country in 2014, and that will only help improve the perception of ACC football. If Miami can start building something significant that would be another huge boost for the conference, and then there's always Dabo Swinney at Clemson, who is a big-time recruiter. Clemson is in the top two for 5-star inside linebacker Raekwon McMillian.
The "Big Three" of ACC football has the potential to have some major 5-star success in 2014, and of course there's bound to be a big pickup or two from North Carolina, Virginia Tech and let's not forget Virginia.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: talent begets talent.
Blanding committing to Virginia is a huge statement to the college football world, and that statement is that the ACC is a legitimate conference for elite college football recruits to consider. All the other recruits that I've mentioned with interest in ACC programs are helping to create that perception a well.
Where one elite recruit commits, others tend to follow.
ACC country is a huge target region for the 2014 class, and I expect that the conference as a whole will drastically improve talent wise on 2014's signing day.
When the talent level rises, so will the quality of football. By it's very nature, high-level football will attract high-level recruits and that's how a recruiting trend is formed.
That's the trend that I'm seeing for 2014, and it's one that very well could continue into future recruiting cycles.
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