They are the best of the best. The players wanted by every program and destined to make a big impact at the college level and beyond.
Rivals.com has identified the first five-star prospects for the 2014 class and is unveiling them this week. Ten prospects have been awarded five-stars but are not ranked at this time and we will profile two each day. One of today's five-stars is Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside defensive back Quin Blanding.
Scouting report: Blanding is a prototypical free safety. He's fast, can read and react to the play, plays the ball well while it is in the air, and he's 6-feet-2, 200 pounds with room to fill out his frame. Blanding has great vision and understands his responsibilities as well as offensive and defensive schemes. He is a vocal leader on the field and is very tough and physical when coming up and making the tackle. In coverage, Blanding rarely takes a false step, and he has good technique, footwork and hip flexibility. That helps him to prevent separation by a receiver when playing man-to-man and keeps him in position to make a good break on the ball.
Analyst's take: "Blanding is a near-perfect fit as a free safety. The combination of his size, speed, athleticism and ball-hawking abilities make him a great weapon against any offense. Being so long and rangy really helps Blanding in both man and zone coverage. Blanding's leadership qualities will prove to be invaluable because, as a safety, he has a good view of the offense and can help his teammates understand what the offense is trying to do. Blanding is a good tackler and is also a force inside the box on run plays. Blanding's versatility is not limited to the defensive side of the ball as he is also an accomplished receiver, wildcat quarterback, and short and long snapper." -- Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic Analyst, Rivals.com
Why he's a five-star: "Blanding is a fluid athlete who is effective in single coverage, covers a lot of ground as a safety and is a big hitter coming up in run support. Blanding has an impressive knack for always being around the ball. He is fast and athletic enough to play on offense in college, but he knows his strength is on defense and loves to hit. He's a jumbo safety who could play strong or free and is a big play waiting to happen. He reminds me quite a bit of Cal star Keenan Allen out of high school with his smooth athleticism and range." -- Mike Farrell, National Recruiting Analyst, Rivals.com
His coach says: "He can do just about anything on the football field. Defensively, he has great cover skills, a nose for the ball and tackles extremely well. He's the verbal leader of the team, defensively and offensively. He doesn't know how to rest on the field. Everything he does on the football field is full speed, 100 percent. His work ethic is second to none. He practices the same way he plays. Everything is full speed in practice. The sky's the limit, because he can do so many things on the football field. I just want to see him continue to work hard in the offseason and in the classroom. He's not a selfish kid, he's a great teammate and [is] very coachable. He's just a special kid." -- Bayside Coach Darnell Moore
Odds and ends: Blanding is averaging 12 tackles per game and has recorded five interceptions, one interception returned for a touchdown and two blocked kicks so far this season. ... As a wide receiver on offense, Blanding has racked up more than 1,000 receiving yards and six touchdowns. ... Blanding's former teammates, Anthony Cooper and Demetrious Nicholson, are currently at Virginia, while his current teammate, Taquan Mizzell, will sign there in February. ... Blanding plays at the same high school where FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel starred.
NFL player comparison: The late Sean Taylor, Washington Redskins