Notre Dame freshman Grant Blankenship on verge of big role

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

One of the first words The Colony (Texas) High School football coach Rudy Rangel used in describing former pupil Grant Blankenship is "ridiculous."

Rangel was talking about the Notre Dame defensive end’s motor.

It didn't take Rangel long - maybe the time it takes to snap the ball - to tell a story that best-describes just how Blankenship is wired. It was two years ago, when The Colony was preparing for a game against a rival Frisco.

Rangel really liked his team, but called it average without Blankenship. The Thursday before the game, however, Blankenship comes down with the flu. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Can’t keep liquid down.

It was so bad that Rangel, not wanting Blankenship on the team bus, drove him to the game himself.

“And he comes out and he has a 16-tackle performance, two sacks,” Rangel marveled. “He gets on offense and he takes defensive ends and drives them 10-15 yards on every play. We’re calling a couple timeouts just to hydrate him. We’re trying to spell him when we could. He’s just that kind of kid.”

The kind of kid that the Notre Dame coaching staff wanted, and signed.

Blankenship has nudged his way into the defensive line rotation on ND’s improved unit. No, he’s not one of the bigger names on a group that ranks 19th nationally in run defense, but is a valuable part in new coordinator Brian VanGorder’s multiple-look, multiple-body unit that necessitates a roster remain handy. Blankenship hasn’t provided the wow factor, but he’s certainly held his own against bigger and better competition.

“He knows he’s going against good competition,” Rangel said. “We’re encouraging him to stay focused and not get down on himself. He’s going against some really good guys. It’s a whole different animal.”

Rangel believes that the future version of Blankenship will bear a different resemblance than the current 6-foot-5, 252-pound version. It wouldn’t surprise the coach if Blankenship down the road plays in the 6-7, 275-pound range, in large part because of his frame.

“His wingspan is just ridiculous. He puts his arms out and it’s almost absurd,” Rangel said. “It’s two window panes in the coaches’ office. It’s huge.”

Rangel believes that as huge as Blankenship’s upside is on the defensive line, it could have been equally as big at tight end.

“As good as he is on defense, he’s every bit as good on offense,” Rangel said.

Blankenship caught six touchdown passes as a senior, and his blocking, Rangel said, included pushing defenders through the end zone if the play allowed.

“He’s one of those guys,” Rangel said. “That’s the kind of motor I’m talking about.”

Notre Dame freshman Grant Blankenship has worked his way into the two-deep on the Irish defensive line. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)