Whenever his team is in trouble, Bayside (Virginia Beach, Va.) football coach Darnell Moore takes comfort knowing he has an ace up his sleeve that can help solve his problems.
Need help at tight end? Call on Quin Blanding.
Have issues long snapping? Call on Quin Blanding.
Need a fill-in at punter? You get the picture.
For the past two seasons, Moore has utilized Blanding, who normally lines up at safety and wide receiver, in every which way possible.
And the 6-foot-2, 196-pound rising junior, who's one of the nation's top recruits in the Class of 2014, often has come through for his coach. Last season, he caught 42 passes for 683 yards and nine touchdowns while splitting time at wide receiver and tight end, and had 67 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries at safety (the position he's expected to play in college). He also blocked three kicks.
"He could be a D-I player on either side of the ball," Moore said. "And he could block a kick for you, too. He punts and long snaps for us. He's also the third QB. Some kids play both ways. He plays all ways. You can say he's our MacGyver."
Said Blanding: "I just play. I don't really care what position it is. If Coach puts me at a different position, I'm just going to go hard."
Take, for instance, last fall's Eastern Region Division 6 semifinals against Salem (Virginia Beach, Va.). The previous week, Salem receiver Kwamane Bowens scored three touchdowns and had nearly 200 receiving yards in a win over Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.).
So Moore put Blanding on Bowens in their playoff matchup, and the sophomore responded by holding him in check the entire game, though Bayside ended up losing 35-21.
"I just had to step up and do the job," Blanding said. "I asked [Coach Moore] two days before the game if I could play press all game."
Blanding has experienced his own press coverage from top college programs since April of his freshman year, when he received his first offer, from Virginia. Since then, the likes of Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Miami, Alabama and Ohio State have joined the party.
The process hasn't been too overwhelming for Blanding so far, thanks in part to the support of his parents, coaches and teammates such as rising senior running back Taquan Mizzell, a close friend who's rated No. 125 in the ESPN 150.
Mizzell, as well as former teammates such as current Cavaliers star corner Demetrious Nicholson, have offered their advice on how to handle what can be an exhausting process.
"It gets stressful," Mizzell said. "I just tell him to take your time, make sure you do what you want to do and don't listen to what everybody else says. There are going to be outsiders who tell you, 'You should go here,' or 'You should go there.' But at the end of the day, it's your decision. You're the one who's going to have to go to this college for four years."
Blanding said he hasn't tried to focus on recruiting too much this offseason. Instead, he's chosen to devote his time to beach workouts with Mizzell to prepare for the upcoming season as well as The Opening; he was one of only three Class of 2014 recruits selected to the prestigious event that will take place July 5-8 in Beaverton, Ore.
The event features the Elite Lineman Challenge, SPARQ Rating National Championship and Nike 7ON. Blanding will be competing in SPARQ and 7ON, the latter of which will be a good opportunity for Blanding to showcase his versatility.
"If he walked on somebody's college campus this summer, he'd start in September," said Moore, who coached Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel in high school. "He can get the ball like a free safety, doesn't show any fear, like a strong safety, and can cover the slot receiver. There will be kids who will be ranked above him, but there won't be a better player in his class."
Blanding said he'd even give the Elite Lineman Challenge a shot, if provided the opportunity.
"If they wanted me to do it, I would," he said, laughing. "I'm not afraid of anything."