Stone Blanton has more than 20 offers but in recent days the three-star linebacker narrowed his list to seven and there are definitely some tough decisions ahead.
The Madison (Miss.) Madison Ridgeland Academy three-star linebacker has some serious connections to the in-state SEC schools but is also looking at others across the country.
In today’s Ranking The Contenders, we take a closer look at the programs on Blanton’s list and put his favorites in order as he works toward a commitment.
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1. MISSISSIPPI STATE
The connections are undeniable and there are many reasons to believe the Bulldogs are in very strong shape in Blanton’s recruitment. Both of his parents went to Mississippi State and he’s committed there to play baseball but that might not have a major influence on his final decision.
Blanton basically grew up on campus, though, has been to Starkville numerous times and he was back this past weekend for the spring game. Plus, coach Mike Leach and his staff are working on Blanton hard which could be another big consideration.
***** 2. OLE MISS
But Ole Miss is right there as well. Blanton’s brothers went to school in Oxford so the entire family is not completely rooted in only Mississippi State. Blanton is also familiar with Ole Miss because of his brothers going there, knowing players on the team and having a general sense of the program and where he would fit in.
The coaches have definitely made him a priority and so Ole Miss is heavily involved here.
***** 3. STANFORD
If Blanton decides to leave the state then Stanford could be a really serious contender. The athletic and academic mix could really appeal to the three-star linebacker plus playing football and baseball for the Cardinal could be a real draw.
He recently had a Zoom meeting with coach David Shaw and also has a great relationship with that coaching staff. There is a lot of intrigue as to what a Stanford degree means and that could be a massive selling point.
***** 4. LOUISVILLE
Blanton is more familiar with Louisville – the school and city – than probably expected because he has family friends there and has spent time in town. Position coaches Cort Dennison and Derek Nicholson have a long-standing relationship with Blanton, too, so familiarity will not be a problem at all if Louisville continues to stand out in his recruitment.
Does Louisville offer Blanton enough to tempt him to leave the state and turn down playing in the SEC? That’s a tough question but the Cardinals are in the hunt and could move higher after a June visit.
***** 5. TEXAS A&M
Blanton has done a virtual visit with Texas A&M so there is definitely legitimate interest from both sides plus the three-star linebacker is intrigued by how coach Jimbo Fisher has the Aggies contending in the SEC West.
The feeling is that A&M has a puncher’s chance but the coaching staff also recognizes it might be an uphill battle against the in-state programs.
***** 6. OREGON
The defense is loaded. The coaching staff is aggressive. And Blanton is definitely interested in the Ducks but they cannot be considered among the top handful of schools just yet.
Oregon still has a lot to do in Blanton’s recruitment but there is interest there. If he makes it to Eugene for an official visit in June or later then the Ducks might tick up on his list.
***** 7. SOUTH CAROLINA
There is interest from Blanton in first-year coach Shane Beamer and his staff and that is a solid foundation to start. And a visit to Columbia in June could propel the Gamecocks much higher on this list but it’s still an outside shot.
South Carolina has a lot to offer and a vision for the program’s direction now under Beamer but will it be enough to pull Blanton away from schools with similar upward mobility that are relatively right down the road? If the three-star linebacker is blown away by his upcoming visit, that’s a good first step.