"I grew up watching the Buckeyes and they've been my favorite team for I can't even tell you how long," Blankenship said. "I'm happy to be a part of them right now. I have some family members from around there in Ohio and it's great."
Blankenship took a no-frills approach into the recruiting season. He had a short list of schools he was considering and was able to reach a decision fairly quickly. He most likely would have received more offers if he would have taken additional visits and attended more camps, but he had all the offers he needed.
"On top of Pitt and Temple, I was looking at Notre Dame, Boston College and Michigan," Blankenship said. "But it basically came down to Pitt and Ohio State. Those were my two favorites. I grew up watching Ohio State and Pitt, and Pitt is about a half hour away from me. So, those were my top two schools and luckily I got offers from both of them. My dad is from Ohio and I just love everything about Ohio State, (head coach Jim) Tressel as well as the Ohio State coaching staff."
It was not an easy decision for Blankenship. Yes, OSU was his favorite boyhood team and the program is one of the best in the nation, but he really liked what Pitt had to offer as well.
"Yeah it was, it was real close," Blankenship said. "I was torn between the two schools because I love everything about Pitt and Ohio State. But whenever I went to Ohio State – as I did with the other schools – I tried to visualize myself playing there and it doesn't get any better than 105,000 people screaming for you. So, I could definitely see myself playing at Ohio State, rather than some of the other schools that I visited."
The OSU coaching staff had its eye on Blankenship for quite some time. And Tressel's track record of camp offers is nearly unmatched. When a "under the radar" player is offered due to a strong camp performance, he usually pans out for the Buckeyes. Just a few examples are Ashton Youboty, Kirk Barton and Malcolm Jenkins. None of which were highly-touted prospects.
"Well, Coach Tressel pulled me into his office last year at camp, before my junior year," Blankenship recalled. "He pulled me into his office and said they liked everything about me. And Sept. 1 came around and sure enough, I got the offer in the mail from Ohio State and I was ecstatic. Ohio State was one of the first schools I wanted to get an offer from because they had just recently won a national championship and just came back from winning a couple bowl games. It doesn't get any bigger than Ohio State and my mom was crying and I got a little teary-eyed because I was so happy that I got the chance to go to college for free and I knew what I was going to be able to do in the future."
The Buckeyes only signed two offensive linemen in their 2006 recruiting class, and there might only be one or two joining Blankenship in this class. But the depth situation did not affect Blankenship's decision. He knows that a school like OSU is going to have plenty of competition at every position.
"I didn't even look at that," Blankenship said. "I just wanted to put myself in the best environment for the next four or five years and I think Ohio State is it. I also wanted to get away from the Pittsburgh area. I don't want to spend the rest of my life here. Just to get out of state and go visit other places. Ohio State is in a great conference in the Big Ten and I'm going to be happy whenever we're traveling to those other places. I'm happy with my decision, but looking at how many linemen they have didn't really affect my decision."
Blankenship, who will be entering his third year as a varsity starter this fall, gave his strengths and weaknesses.
"I have quick feet and I can read blitzes and I'm a great pass protector," he said. "I need to work on some of my run blocking skills just a little bit. But I think my greatest attribute is my feet for being as big as I am. I used to play basketball and I did track this past year. I have quick feet for a 315-pound lineman, so that is probably my best one."
Blankenship will be an interior linemen for the Buckeyes, just like he is in high school.
"I'll probably be a guard or center," he said. "Hopefully I'll play guard, I'm more familiar with that position. But wherever Ohio State wants me, that's where I'll play. I'll try my best to learn the position."
When asked for his favorite part of playing up front, Blankenship said: "Pulling. Just running people over. That's what I want to do every time I pull. And we're installing a new offense this year and we're going to be doing a lot of pulling, so I'm real happy about that."
Blankenship has a long-term goal of making it to the NFL. And he is well-aware of OSU offensive line coach Jim Bollman's history of putting his linemen in the NFL.
"That's another reason why I picked Ohio State was them being the best shot of me going to the NFL," Blankenship said. "Every year I see six, seven, eight guys from Ohio State drafted into the NFL. I thought if I was going to make it to the NFL, Ohio State was the perfect place to do it.
"Coach Bollman is a great guy and he is actually the coach who started recruiting me. There's nothing bad I can say about him. He's a great coach. When I would go to the camps, he would teach me stuff that I would use in games. I picked up things real quickly from him and I knew that was going to be a big factor in my decision. And after I made my decision, he was one of the first people I called. I'm definitely looking forward to playing for Coach Bollman."
Blankenship's Center Area High School team started off 8-0 last year and was ranked as one of the top teams in Pennsylvania. But two consecutive losses to end the season left a bad taste in Blankenship's mouth.
"Yeah it did," he said. "But we're looking good coming back this year. Most of our line is coming back, as well as our quarterback and a couple running backs. I think we're going to be pretty good this year. Maybe not quite as good as last year, because we lost a lot of good players on defense, but I think offensively we're going to be just fine."
Could Blankenship get his big body out there and help out the defense this year?
"I played a little bit of defense last year, but I'm an offensive guy," he said. "I like running people over. But I played a little bit of defensive tackle last year and might do it again this year."
It won't begin for more than a year, but Blankenship revealed his goals for his OSU career.
"I obviously want to try and start while I'm there and early on make the traveling squad," he said. "Team-wise, I want to win a couple championships. I guess you can say every college player wants a championship or two."
* No one is truly an Ohio State verbal commitment until we have them on the Bucknuts Radio Hour. And Blankenship now qualifies. Tune in for the entire interview in the near future.