In the Film Room: Robert Blanton

If my assumptions are correct Notre Dame is going to make a move to a more man coverage dominated defense. If this is true, as a defensive coach, you want players with good size. If you are going to put your cornerbacks in situations where they will be asked to go one-on-one, with no help you want them a little bit bigger than we are used to. Robert Blanton is that type of football player.

As one of the nation's elite cornerbacks, Blanton possesses the size, technique, and speed combination to excel in the Notre Dame defense. Robert has all the tools necessary to be an excellent cover corner at the collegiate level.

Height and length are two of Blanton's best assets. At 6-1 and with very long arms, Blanton has the length to go toe-to-toe with bigger receivers and will prove a tough physical match-up for the smaller receivers. At 175 pounds, he will have to add mass and strength to his frame in order to hold up snap after snap. Playing man defense is very taxing on the body of a cornerback. You will be asked to get physical on every snap. Blanton has plenty of time to do it, but he'll have to get bigger and stronger. He's still just a junior.

I love the confidence this young man displays on the field and off of it. I have never talked to Blanton, but from every article I read on him, you can tell he is a very confident young man. You need your cornerbacks to be confident, even borderline arrogant. Listen to the great ones talk and you pick up the sense that they honestly don't feel anyone can ever beat them. Anyone who beats them is lucky, if you do beat them, enjoy it because you will get shut down for the rest of the game. Guys like that take getting beat personally, and instead of worrying about getting beat again they up their game and come at you harder. You can sense this quality in Robert Blanton.

Before I get into his physical abilities let me talk a little bit about Blanton as a tackler. You have got to love watching this young man hit people. The Butler star isn't afraid to lower the boom on players. Not just shots into the ribs of receivers catching the ball, but Blanton will come up and stick it to running backs as well. There is no ankle tackling going on when Blanton is around the football. He also does a great job of fighting off blockers and getting to the ball carrier. He does a very good job of shedding cut blocks, staying up, shedding, and breaking on the ball carrier. As much as receivers love to cut block this will serve him quite well in college.

The Matthews, N.C. native will, however, need to improve his technique. Far too often he goes for the kill shot rather than wrapping up. You can lower the boom on a player, explode through him, yet still have good technique. He'll need to develop more consistency as a tackler.

This is one of the more fluid athletes in the nation. Blanton has very good quickness, great footwork, is smooth, has great hips, has little wasted motion, and has a tremendous first step. In high school he has blocked a ton of kicks. Most of the time he looks to be off sides his first step is so quick. Blanton also possesses very good change of direction ability.

I read somewhere that he doesn't have great backpedal quickness. I didn't feel that he is slow in his pedal. It appears to me, if you watch both corners, that what is going on is that Robert is executing the technique he is taught, rather than not possessing the ability to be faster.

While he isn't a blazer he does cover a lot of ground with his great quickness and long strides. With his great footwork he is excellent at planting out of his pedal and breaking in on the receiver or the football. He is in and out of his breaks with tremendous quickness and explosion. Blanton is very good at closing on the football, receivers, and ball carriers. He also uses his quickness and technique to keep receivers from eating up his cushion. By doing this he is able to stay in his pedal longer, which makes it easier to keep the receiver in front of him and break on the football once it's thrown. It also allows him to mirror the route of the receiver.

Notre Dame hasn't had a true playmaker at cornerback in quite some time. Turnovers are a huge part of the football game and the Notre Dame defense just hasn't been able to consistently force turnovers. Scheme is a part of that, and I believe that Corwin Brown is going to preach turnovers and aggressive play in this new defense. But scheme only gets you so far. You need playmakers. Blanton is a playmaker. He is always around the football. He makes a ton of tackles, picks the ball off, had a ton of breakups, and is great at stripping the football. He is a true ball hawk, which is something that Notre Dame has been missing.

Blanton's ball skills are top notch, although he doesn't have naturally great hands. At times the Butler star will take unnecessary risks. Part of being a great player is knowing when you simply can't get to the football and pick it off. If that's the case you need to go for the receiver instead and attempt to jar the ball loose that way. When Robert knows he can't pick the pass off he is great at this. I love this aggressiveness but feel as he gets older he'll need to learn when to take the safer play.

Instincts are a huge part of being an outstanding cornerback. The ball skills I just discussed go a long ways toward showing me that Blanton is an instinctual and smart football player. He also takes very good angles to the football. He has a great knack for stripping the football. His timing on blitzes and on special teams going for blocks is tremendous.

Finally, what shows Blanton's great instincts are his ability to read and jump defenders. Not only does he possess the athletic ability to break on receivers, he also shows the natural ability to mirror a receiver, get a read on his routes, and actually beat the receiver to the football. One area where Robert will have to improve is as a bump-and-run defender. Right now he is able to use his superior size, athletic ability, and natural strength to beat his opponents. In college he'll need to develop better hand techniques at the line of scrimmage and as you get into the actual route. I'd advise him to get his hands on some film of the Broncos Dre Bly. Bly to me is one of the best at hand fighting at the line of scrimmage and in routes.

There are some outstanding cornerbacks at the top of the rankings this year. I don't believe that Robert possesses the same top end speed as players like Patrick Johnson, T.J. Bryant, and Boubacar Cissoko. But what he lacks in top end speed he makes up for in athletic ability, technique, and size. He is one of the best defensive playmakers in the country. Blanton is also deservedly ranked among the nation's elite cornerbacks.

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