CLEMSON — Travis Blanks has only been on Clemson’s campus for 11 months. It’s important to remember that sometimes.
It feels like the true freshman defensive back has been here longer.
Blanks authored an excellent first season of college football, which was recognized over the weekend. Fox Sports named him a second-team freshman All-American, signaling him as a future cornerstone of the Tigers’ secondary.
“He’s had a great year,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Sometimes you forget he’s a true freshman. He’s like a sponge. The biggest thing is he’s been there, done that, the experience factor, the knowledge. He’s grown immensely from when he got here and he was trying to figure it out last spring. He’s almost like a guy going into his junior year. That’s how I would perceive him going into spring.”
Blanks started five of 12 games and played 485 snaps, sixth-most on Clemson’s roster. He made 46 tackles and played at least 30 snaps in 10 of 12 games.
“I wanted to come in and be the best I could be,” he said. “If that was first-team All-American, second-team All-American, I’m fine with that. As long as I can live at the end of the day and not have any regrets, I’m fine with that. I feel like I accomplished some things well this season, I feel like I had a good freshman season. Second-team freshman All-American is great to have that accolade.”
Blanks enrolled last January and went through spring practice, earning immediate accolades from coaches for his readiness.
Preparation was the biggest lesson he learned this season.
“It’s just the level of maturity it takes to play college football as a freshman,” Blanks said. “It’s a maturation process. You have to grow mentally and you have to grow physically. I feel like I’ve grown a lot this year. I still have a ways to go but I feel like I took a big step mentally, just being a student of the game this year.”
Blanks feels he made excellent progress in Brent Venables’ overall scheme.
“I feel real comfortable,” he said. “Coming in last January, getting a spring under my belt, studying the plays all summer, coming in to get a full fall camp, all the way through the season, I’ve progressed tremendously in the defense. You never really arrive playing football. There’s always more to learn, always more to get better at, but starting where I came from, I came a tremendous ways as far as learning what’s going on.
“It’s becoming more of a student of the game. You never know enough, you never have enough, there’s always more you can know about the game. Just continuing to study and know the game.”
He did so while shuffling from “Sam” linebacker to nickel back to safety.
Swinney said he is a natural safety, and will move there for spring practice, helping fill the void created by graduating senior starters Rashard Hall and Jonathan Meeks.
“I’m excited about his future,” Swinney said. “We’ll bump him back to safety. We’ve managed him well this year, trying to develop him in a certain role at safety. There’s complication to it. He’s got great range, good ball skills, he’s a hitter and a highly competitive football player. I think his future is bright.”
Blanks says his versatility is important, but he’s happy with the idea of a fixed position.
“That’ s my home, that’s where I played in high school,” he said. “That’s my body type, that’s my mindset, I’m more of a safety guy. I feel good about moving back to safety.”