Bronco Mendenhall’s efforts to rebuild the Virginia football program received another big boost Monday. Just two weeks after linebacker Micah Kiser announced he would return for his senior season at UVA, safety Quin Blanding followed suit with the same decision.
Blanding submitted his name to the National Football League’s College Advisory Committee for evaluation, but ultimately opted to return to the Cavaliers.
“After careful thought and consideration, I have decided to stay at the University of Virginia and complete my fourth year,” Blanding said in a news release. “I am fully committed to coach Bronco Mendenhall, coach Nick Howell, and the entire coaching staff and the program they are building. I am committed to my teammates and want to help lead my team to a bowl game while at UVA.”
Blanding’s return closes out December with good news for the Hoos. With an average of 10.0 tackles per game in 2016, he ranked No. 2 in the ACC, behind only Kiser, and No. 10 nationally. He’s finished No. 2 in tackles in the ACC for three straight seasons, trailing only Kiser twice. Blanding’s 120 tackles led the nation for tackles by a defensive back.
The safety earned first-team All-ACC honors from both the media and the league’s head coaches. The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated each named him a second-team All-American. Among other recognition, Blanding also received the Defensive Back of the Year Award from the Touchdown Club of Richmond.
Blanding enters his senior season with 358 tackles, which ranks No. 9 all-time at UVA and No. 1 among Wahoo defensive backs. He also will have the most career tackles among all returning FBS players next season.
Those credentials likely would have given Blanding a shot in the NFL, but he decided to postpone those dreams to compete with the Cavaliers again in 2017.
“My focus has been and will continue to be helping the team get better and growing as a player,” Blanding added in a news release. “I look forward to having the opportunity to play in the NFL in the future, but my immediate focus right now is my team and contributing to a winning season in 2017. Go Hoos.”
The decisions by Blanding and Kiser to return leaves running back Taquan Mizzell and defensive tackle Donte Wilkins as the most likely Hoos to be drafted by the NFL. UVA owns a 33-year streak dating back to 1984 for at least one player being drafted, which ranks second in the ACC. Last year, cornerback Maurice Canady went in the sixth round to the Baltimore Ravens with the 209th overall pick to extend the draft streak.
Mizzell posted on Twitter on Monday that he has received a spot in the NFL Players Association Collegiate Bowl to be played in California on Jan. 21.
— Taquan Mizzell (@Smokee_4) December 26, 2016