September 22, 2010 10:13:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
It''s easy for Tevin Blanchard to attract attention.
At Aberdeen High School, the 6-foot, 170-pounder earned All-District and second-team All-State honors in football and helped the boys basketball team win the Class 3A state title in 2008.
Last season, though, Blanchard needed a little time to adjust from high school to Itawamba Community College. When he finally settled in, Blanchard showed he had the potential to take his skills to the next level.
This season, Blanchard is doing even more to get noticed. The sophomore cornerback intercepted two passes in the end zone and played a key role in ICC''s 21-14 victory against East Central C.C. His play helped the Indians give first-year head coach Jon Williams his first victory, and set the stage for ICC''s game at 7 p.m. Thursday against defending state champion East Mississippi C.C. (0-3) in Fulton.
"He was the difference-maker of the game," Williams said. "I really felt like he had the best game of his career since he has been here at ICC."
Blanchard also had eight tackles and a pass breakup. Williams said his plays came at critical junctures when the Indians needed to make a stand. He said Blanchard did a good job digesting the scheme of defensive coordinator/assistant head football coach Sean Cannon and was in the right places to make game-changing plays.
On the first interception, Blanchard said the quarterback scrambled out of the pocket in an attempt to make a play. When he saw the quarterback try to throw the ball, Blanchard said he broke and was there in time.
On the second interception, Blanchard said the Indians benefited from a zone blitz and the fact that the receiver tipped the ball and it fell into his hands.
"They were big interceptions," Blanchard said. "They were about to score and the game ended up 21-14. I think our defense and my teammates helped stop them good before they could score."
Blanchard feels more film study and better preparation have helped put in him in position to make plays. He said watching video of opponents has allowed him to understand tendencies and to pick up on things that will help him in games. He said that study before the East Central game enabled him to know what was coming.
Williams said Blanchard''s willingness to be more of a student of the game has been his biggest area of growth.
"I think Tevin is one of those guys who came in who is probably a lot like other high school guys who thought (junior college football) is just a level up from high school," Williams said. "Probably about the last third of the season he figured it out, so to speak, and he understood it is going to take being more than a good athlete (to be successful). He put in some extra time in the film room really honing in on the opponent and our scouting evaluation."
Williams said that maturity could be the difference in Blanchard''s next step. He said the sophomore has attracted plenty of interest from Division I schools, including several Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA schools. He said other schools from "bigger" conferences also are interested and are waiting to see how Blanchard fares in the next stretch of the season.
"The next two to three weeks are very important for him in terms of defining where he goes," Williams said. "I feel certain Tevin will sign a Division I scholarship, but it remains to be seen at what level.
"The thing Tevin can do over the next month is just make more big plays like he did last week. I think if he does he can be a marketable guy at the highest level."
Blanchard doesn''t see that as a challenge. He feels it is just something that should be expected of an experienced leader.
"I just have to keep working hard and keep making big plays for the team," Blanchard said. "I have to be in the right spot and to make key tackles."
That shouldn''t be difficult for Blanchard, who feels his coverage skills are his strongest asset. He isn''t at the level of New York Jets'' Darrelle Revis yet, but Blanchard knows he has the potential to get there.
"I want to be on an island by myself," Blanchard said, referring to Revis'' television commercial. "I have worked very hard to get to where I am."
Williams likes the progress Blanchard has made and wants to see him close his career on a high note. He feels Blanchard''s dependability will help him accomplish that goal and help pave the way for him to realize his goal of playing football at a four-year school.
"Tevin always has been a quiet leader, a lead-by-example type," Williams said. "I think just the way he approaches the game from a mental and a technical standpoint and studying film are the things I have seen the most from him that have helped him blossom."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.