Blankenship defines Kelly's Big Skill profile

Our 12th of 22 (and counting?) "Eye in the Sky" film reviews for Notre Dame's incoming pledges examines four-star prospect Grant Blankenship and how the versatile edge defender could improve head coach Brian Kelly's Irish roster over the next four -- or five seasons.

Notre Dame pledge Grant Blankenship rose from a three-star status and as the 53rd ranked defensive end in the 2014 class to No. 10 at his position, the 91st ranked prospect overall by

He enters the program as a potential defensive end for a four-down (4-3) front or outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

Below is a film review of Blankenship with an eye toward how he could help Notre Dame's front seven -- in 2014, 2015, and beyond.

Strengths and areas for development

Another rangy rush/drop end prospect for new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to work with…Blankenship pursues well after shedding and uses his hands to meet and defeat blocks…Appears a bit high in terms of initial pad level vs. prep foes (understandable for a 6'6" athlete able to dominate his opponent) but is able to uncoil and deliver a blow at times, regardless. One question that won't be answered until August: is he an accelerator upon compact (does he tackle through the ball carrier)? Taller players can give the impression they absorb hits rather than deliver at times though he has good leverage for a (at least) 6'5" prospect...

Regardless, he's impressive in backside pursuit, with long strides get him from Point A to Point B, but additionally, Blankenship takes the proper angles and appears to understand navigating through clutter and space that exists at scrimmage...

Does a nice job setting the edge vs. power plays though that will be tested vs. collegiate linemen and tight ends…Shows nice change of direction in space for a taller prospect…Possesses not only the length to disrupt passes and get in the passing lanes but the agility to come to balance at the right time and knack for contacting the ball, even on throws fewer than 5 yards from him…

Time and guidance in the weight room will make Blankenship a far different player in 2016 than the prospect that hits campus this summer…Has an advantage over a handful of Irish classmates in terms of the stiff competition he's already faced at the prep level…Aggressively attacks a blocker in one-on-one pass-rushing situations, using leg drive and force to win before turning into an athlete in the collapsed pocket…

Relentless, not only in pursuit of a tackle but when effectively double-teamed -- the latter a much more telling trait for future growth, because at the collegiate level, you're going to be blocked…

With expected gains in weight, bulk, strength (and maybe even height), Blankenship appears destined for defensive end duty rather than work as a true outside linebacker...

Road blocks to playing time

Bulk and added strength. Blankenship is a superb future prospect but other than a niche role as a nickel or dime pass-rusher, his current frame (lack of bulk) is the chief impediment to first-year playing time.

Like the previously reviewed Jonathan Bonner (and forthcoming prospect film reviews of Jhonathan WIlliams and Kolin Hill), Blankenship could likely help getting after a quarterback in certain situations but the Irish senior Ishaq Williams and junior Romeo Okwara for those roles.

Blankenship might not crack full-time duty until 2016, but that doesn't mean he won't be the best of Notre Dame's myriad DE/OLB prospects in the 2014 haul.

Reminiscent of… Former Irish freshman linebacker and pass-rusher, Troy Niklas (circa 2011)...

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