Quin Blanding has been playing varsity football since his freshman year of high school. According to the 247Sports composite ranking, he is now the No. 1 safety in the 2014 recruiting class.
Blanding, the No. 9 recruit in the country, has been committed to Virginia since February of 2014.
He checks in at 6'2'', 200 pounds and runs a 4.50 40, according to 247Sports. Because of his size, he'll be able to play strong in the box and be a big-time run defender, but his quickness will allow him to patrol the deep zones in pass coverage.
In a recent wide-ranging phone interview with Bleacher Report, Blanding talked about his game, the players in the NFL he most resembles and the relative strength of the ACC vs. the SEC.
In your opinion, why are you the No. 1 safety in the nation?
Quin Blanding: My IQ for the game. Many people, when they watch me play, they say I'm the quarterback of the defense. So, every call that needs to be made, every change—I can call it and see it at the same time, and just react to it.
Many people say that's my greatest skill, and I think that is my greatest skill. I see things that my coaches don't even see sometimes. Sometimes I'm right. I might be wrong sometimes, but I still give 100 percent effort.
Can you explain a situation when you've seen something that maybe your coaches couldn't see?
QB: There are calls that they call and we can stay in it, and it will work fine, but it's hard for them to see what I see because I'm on the field. Like, when they motion and do all the crazy routes, I can check off all the routes and change the defensive play to fit their route schemes.
As a safety, would you rather make a big hit or get an interception?
QB: I'm more of an interception guy. I'm not scared of contact at all—that's what it's all about—but when you get an interception, it's better. When you get the big hit, that's your highlight. But you get an interception, you get a chance to make another highlight by scoring with it, but also you still get the ball. That's what's better about it.
What does it feel like when you get a pick?
QB: I turn into offense so quick. I know what to do on offense, I play receiver too. It's natural to me. I know to catch it, and I know I gotta go.
Which NFL or college player would you compare yourself to?
QB: Everybody says with my physical ability I play like Taylor Mays, and then some nights I play like Ed Reed because I just sit back and go attack the ball and catch picks. It would probably have to be like, Brian Dawkins. It would probably be a mix between all of them.
You have offers from Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, etc. Why did you turn down all of those powerhouse programs to commit to Virginia?
QB: I feel like where I come from, this is where I want to stand up for. This is where I want to go from, and I want other people to go from here.
You don't have to pick a top-notch school. With me not going there, they still have somebody right there that's on the depth chart that's still up there with me. So, they can be the next player.
Some people say 'Oh yeah, I'm No. 1, I'm a 5-star. I'm going to play right away.' Some big-time programs, they won't play you right away, or they just don't fit your style of defense.
I feel with Virginia, we're going to be on the upside of things. Not saying we're going to right away go win the national championship. Not saying we're going to right away in the ACC championship, but we're going to go compete for those.
Do you think within the next five years, UVA could be in a championship game, and why?
QB: Oh yeah. Just with the talent that will be going there. Pretty much all the talent that came from here, the Beach area. We're all at Virginia trying to make it come up. And we've got players from all over that are also good.
We can go the next three years and I feel like we'll still be able to compete for the ACC or the national championship.
Do you think the ACC can compete with the SEC?
QB: I think so. They say the SEC is way better. Yeah, I see it, but at the same time I don't because the ACC still puts players in the league too. Whatever conference it is, they all put people in the league and they all have their own talent.
What's the craziest recruiting trail story you have?
QB: The talk with Nick Saban, it was different. It was just like 'Man, this is a legend right here.' I'm talking to a legend pretty much.'
So it was a fun experience. That was one of the craziest things.
Would you consider Saban the best recruiter in college football right now?
QB: He didn't really recruit me as hard as I thought they would. It is what it is. I feel like the best recruiter I know was Chip West from Virginia, the cornerbacks coach.
What made him stand out?
QB: He stayed on me no matter what. They were my first offer. No matter where I went, he always stayed on me. He always came down to see me. He showed a lot of love.
You said you were surprised Alabama didn't recruit you as hard as you thought they would. What are your thoughts on that?
QB: It's all a business. Yeah, we're going to get a good education, but we're also there for business and being an athlete. It's all a business. You win some, you lose some.
Like I said, I know they've got dozens of people on the chart.
Does the great depth chart make Alabama a bit less appealing in the eyes of a top recruit?
QB: Not that, but they have all the high-ranked people. I know some of them still haven't even touch the field. Most of them choose to be there for four years—they pretty don't touch the field until their last year.
At a point, it's just not even worth it.
Do you think a lot of top recruits feel that way? Everybody always says 'Alabama's going to get all of the top recruits', but do you think there's a misconception there?
QB: Alabama's always going to be a good school no matter what. They always have tough players and players really put in work. Not saying other colleges don't, but Alabama's always going to be Alabama, regardless if a big recruit goes there.
Just like Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame—they're all going to be the same school no matter if you go there or not.
Is there any chance that you don't end up at Virginia?
QB: Not unless something really goes wrong. Like really, really goes wrong. I won't be going anywhere but UVA.
What would have to happen?
QB: I have no idea. If it's something over the top, that's when I might have to step back and reconsider. But, more than likely I know it's not going to happen.
Everything is on the upside right now. I know everything's going to work out and I'll be attending UVA