Blanks settling in at safety

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Travis BlanksTravis Blanks
Fr. Defensive Back
#11 6-1, 190
Tallahassee, FL

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, one of the rising starts on Clemson’s young but talented defense, was going through a drill earlier this week when a collision with a teammate during a drill was something akin to “the shot heard round the world.”

Or, in Clemson’s case, the shot heard round the indoor practice facility.

Clemson’s paper-thin secondary can’t afford to suffer any more attrition before the freshmen arrive this summer, and Blanks wore a yellow jersey the rest of the week as a precautionary measure, but Blanks told TigerNet on Wednesday that big licks are simply a part of the game.

"It was just practice. I was just running around hitting and got banged up a bit,” the rising sophomore said. “Nothing major.”

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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offered his own take of the collision with the unnamed teammate.

"He got his bell rung. He got rocked pretty good,” Swinney told the media after Wednesday’s practice.

Swinney later characterized the injury as a “slight concussion” while Blanks said he was told the measures were just precautionary.

"They never diagnosed me. It's just a head injury,” Blanks said. “I don't want to say concussion when they never told me it was a concussion. They just took precautions."

Blanks said he should be full speed when the team returns to practice after spring break on March 25th, welcome news for a secondary that is already without the services of corner Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS So. Defensive Back
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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– who has been held away from practice by Swinney as the head coach tries to get him to refocus on football – and freshman Jadar Johnson, who dislocated his elbow on the first day of practice.

The injury to the Tigers' starting free safety is the latest in a line of issues for a secondary that's already thin. Garry Peters, who is expected to compete for a starting job at cornerback this offseason, has not yet practiced this spring as he continues to "get with the program," after being challenged by the coaching staff to rededicate himself and refocus on off-the-field duties. And true freshman safety Jadar Johnson has been injured.

Swinney said he can’t envision a scenario where the freshmen don’t contribute this season.

"I don’t see a way that we can’t play them,” Swinney said. “That is one of the reasons we went and signed so many. Our number is 14 – that is what we try to recruit to in the secondary. Right now, we’ve got eight guys here on scholarship, with Jadar coming in, and then seven more coming, so we will actually be one over. The reason we did that is because we know we are going to have to count on some guys.

“Now, they're not all going to be ready. You just never really know. Who you think is going to be ready, he'll come in and he won't be ready. Who you think, 'That guy will never play as a freshman.' He'll shock you. You just never know. But they're all talented. And there is certainly an opportunity. We like the guys we have, but we need more accountability and competition and more quality depth that we can depend on.”

Blanks said the players on hand are doing their best to take advantage of the opportunity at hand, and aren't worrying about the highly-publicized freshmen who will arrive in the summer.

"We are kind of thin right now, but hey, we're taking advantage of our opportunities," Blanks said. “Right now we have to focus on what we can control. We can't control the freshmen coming in. All we can control is making the best out of every spring practice. That's our focus day by day. The more reps we take the better."

Blanks turned in a stellar freshman campaign, but played out of position as he tried to help new defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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at the hybrid nickel-SAM position. This spring, Blanks has moved back to safety, and he said he is settling in comfortably at free safety and works on what he calls "eye discipline and eye control."

“Everything is going so fast. The playbook is bigger, so a lot of it is just about getting comfortable and being comfortable," he said. "I'm going to focus on my keys that I have to read based on the formations that are there. I can cover ground. I can tackle. I can break up passes. I've just got to have more discipline and control. feel natural there. That's where I played in high school. I see the whole field. I just feel so natural and good at free safety."

Blanks said making the transition easier has been the addition of new secondary coach Mike ReedMike Reed
Defensive Backs Coach
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, a coach that Blanks calls a “great teacher.”

"We make mistakes. But he teaches,” Blanks said. “He doesn't just yell at us. He teaches us. He's a great fundamentals guy. We are learning so much new technique and so much that can add to the positives of our game. Our technique has improved by leaps and bounds just in the short time he's been here. We all love Coach Reed. He played in the league and he's really helped us with our fundamentals and technique."

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