The Recruiting Guy:

Two-sport athlete stirs interest

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The University of Arkansas became the second Power 5 school to offer a scholarship to ESPN 4-star junior linebacker Stone Blanton when linebackers coach Rion Rhoades extended one in the spring.

"They text me a little bit, just kind of updating me and asking how I am and how my family is, and I send them my film to keep them updated on how my season is going," said Blanton, who called Rhoades on Sunday evening.

Blanton, 6-2, 220 pounds, of Madison-Ridgeland Academy in Madison, Miss., had scholarship offers in football from Tennessee, Florida Atlantic and Jacksonville State prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

An outstanding outfielder, Blanton committed to play baseball at Mississippi State on Jan. 23.

He and his parents didn't allow the recruiting dead period that began March 13 affect his football recruiting. They sent out emails to colleges April 25 with Blanton's video and other information.

Two days later, Rhoades was the first to extend an offer after the mass mailing.

The flood gates soon opened, with offers coming from Mississippi State, Nebraska, Baylor, Oregon, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Virginia, Duke, Louisville and others. He stands with 19 offers.

"I've been able to get my name out there, and coaches have been able to see me," Blanton said. "So they're doing a lot of recruiting over Twitter. That's kind of how I was doing it before Sept. 1. Just sending my film out."

Blanton, who reports running 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash, has a 330-pound bench press and a 300 power clean. ESPN also rates him the No. 5 inside linebacker and the No. 227 overall recruit for the 2022 class.

College coaches were able to make direct contact with junior prospects for the first time Sept. 1. Blanton said Rhoades and the Hogs are aggressive in recruiting him, but not overbearing.

"They're coming at it pretty good," he said. "They're not overdoing it or anything, so I definitely appreciate them and all they're doing for me."

A starter since the eighth grade, Blanton recorded 61 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 3 forced fumbles as a sophomore despite missing games with a shoulder injury.

He and the Patriots have started strong this season with a 3-0 record, including a 27-26 victory over highly regarded Trinity Christian of Cedar Hill, Texas, which features former Florida State and NFL great Deion Sanders as the offensive coordinator.

Blanton has recorded 40 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a quarterback hurry this season.

Defending two-time Class 7A state champion Bryant is expected to host Trinity Christian on Sept. 18.

"They're a pretty solid team," Blanton said of Trinity Christian. "They have a bunch of athletes for sure. Their quarterback is amazing. He throws pretty well, and they have some mean linebackers. They're definitely a tough team to beat."

Blanton, who also has interest from the baseball Hogs, hopes the dead period is lifted at some point so he can visit campuses, but he knows there's no guarantee that will happen.

"Obviously, recruiting is seeing where you're going to live the next four years, so that would be a big impact," Blanton said. "I just have to trust in God that he's going to guide me to the right place, so that's how I'll kind of do it, and then virtual visits is how I'll kind go about it if I'm not able to go to schools."

While he's pledged to play baseball at Mississippi State, Blanton said he's looking for the best fit to play baseball and football.

"That's what's going to call me to a school," he said. "Nothing is set in stone. Obviously, there's two years left. A lot can happen, so I'm just keeping my options open."

Email Richard Davenport at [email protected]

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