In eight starts and 547 snaps this season at the nickel/SAM position, Blanks has 49 tackles and six pass breakups.
The freshman from Tallahassee, Fla. was recently named second-team Freshman All-American by FoxSportsNext.com.
"He's almost like having a guy going into his junior year," Swinney said. "That's really, kind of, how I would perceive him now, going into spring ball."
A four-star prospect out of North Florida Christian, Blanks is satisfied with his first regular season at the college level.
"I just wanted to come in and be the best that I could be. If that resulted in a first-team All-America, second-team All-American, I'm fine with that," he said. "As long as I could live at the end of the day and not have any greats with what I did, I'm fine with it.
"I feel like I accomplished some things well this season. I felt like I had a good freshman season."
Swinney looks forward to what Blanks can grow into over the next few seasons. For 2013, Blanks is already penciled in as a starter at one of the safety positions.
It's possible that he will continue to work at the nickel position, similar to how Marcus Gilchrist was used.
"We managed [Blanks] well this year, I think. We tried to develop him in a certain role. Safety is a position -- there's some complication to it. He's going to be a great fit for that," Swinney said. "He's got great range, good ball skills, a hitter and a highly competitive football player.
"I think his future is very bright -- a good start for him."
And Blanks thinks he has a firm grasp of Brent Venables' defense.
"I feel real comfortable. Just coming in last January -- getting a full spring under my belt, studying the plays all summer, coming in and getting a full fall camp and now all the way through the season -- I've progress tremendously, just learning the defense," Blanks said.
There is, of course, plenty of room for improvement.
"You've never really arrived when you're playing football. There's always more to learn. There's always ways to get better," Blanks said. "Just looking back to where I came from, I came a tremendous way, as far as just learning what's going on."
Where exactly has he progressed the most?
"Just the level of maturity it takes to play college football, even as a freshman," Blanks said. "Just a maturation process, you have to grow mentally. You have to grow physically. I feel like I grew a lot, mentally, this year.
"I still have a ways to go. I feel like I took a big step, mentally, just being a student of the game this year."
Off to a good start
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