CLEMSON — The last thing Travis Blanks wanted, or expected, was to take a mid-career detour to the football equivalent of pit row.
Sitting on the sidelines is no better than he imagined it would be; but that doesn’t mean he’s wasting his time, spinning his wheels, as he rehabs an ACL injury that’s keeping him out of uniform this spring.
“This is the hardest part of my college career so far – over any workout or early morning,” Blanks said. “You go from a feeling of significance to a feeling of insignificance. I think that’s a tough thing for anybody.
“From the position I was in to where I am now – watching everybody else get better – it hurts. But there’s opportunity in my situation, as well. That’s what I’m concentrating on.”
Blanks said that standing on the sideline observing drills or spending extra time in film study has broadened his perspective.
“The awesome part is that I get to see what the coaches see,” Blanks said. “I see things I didn’t get to see when I was on the field. I get to break down film more, and I’m more of an eye-in-the-sky, like the coaches are.
“I get to learn more about the game and myself as a player, and I get to sharpen my mental game – and that’s something that’s well-needed.”
To hear Blanks tell it, his career took its first detour last season while he was on the field.
The Tallahassee, Fla. native made an immediate impact as a first-year freshman when he earned Freshman All-America honors as the Tigers’ primary nickel back – a position he shared with SAM linebacker Quandon Christian.
After the loss of Jonathan Meeks, Rashard Hall and Xavier Brewer, he moved to safety last season, where he started alongside Robert Smith.
Somehow, the move never felt right.
While he was able to use his instincts and ability to play full-speed at nickel, Blanks found himself, perhaps, over-thinking his new position.
“I just didn’t feel like I ever really cut it loose,” Blanks said.
When Blanks gets back on the field in August, the plan is for him to return to the nickel position, where he’ll compete with sophomores Korrin Wiggins and T.J. Burrell, and redshirt freshman Dorian O’Daniel.
The coaches are hoping to mix and match versatile players at the position, rather than subbing in and out strictly based on run/pass situations.
Blanks, who’s at 211 pounds, says he hopes to play at about 220 if he can maintain his speed and agility.
Blanks says his rehab is on schedule, and that he hopes to be able to ‘cut it loose’ sometime this summer, and certainly by fall camp.