COLUMBIA — Blue Springs South tight end Kendall Blanton did not post eye-popping numbers as a junior in 2012, so it’s pretty obvious that had little to do with Missouri’s decision to offer him a scholarship in March.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
“I guess I passed the eye test, just with my height and my size and athletic ability,” said Blanton, who had just three catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Blue Springs South coach Greg Oder said Blanton, who committed to the Tigers in March, was listed at 6 feet 5 and 225 pounds last season and has since sprouted to 6 feet 7 and 240 pounds, perhaps the ideal size for a player at a position that takes on increased importance as Missouri adjusts to the rough-and-tumble Southeastern Conference.
“His potential is probably unlimited,” said Oder, whose team ran almost twice as much it threw last season. “He’s got a long way to go, but he has a high ceiling because of his ability.”
Blanton, who said he ran a 4.82 40-yard dash last summer, also boasts a 33-inch vertical and impressive bloodlines. His father, Jerry, played linebacker at Kentucky and spent seven years in the NFL, all with the Chiefs.
“The SEC is different than the league they were in,” Jerry Blanton said. “You’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be strong, and you’ve got to be fast. I think the University of Missouri is looking for athletes like that.”
Though Kendall did not start playing tackle football until the seventh grade, Jerry said Missouri assistant Andy Hill — Blanton’s main recruiter — told him that he was sold on Kendall’s football potential after watching him play on Blue Springs South’s basketball team.
“He said they looked at him and could tell that with his frame, they could put 25 or 30 more pounds on him,” Jerry said. “Andy looked at him from an athletic standpoint more than trying to judge him on just football, because he hasn’t really played that much.”
Since Blanton gave an oral commitment, Oder said several SEC and Big Ten schools have asked about him, including Jerry’s alma mater, Kentucky. However, Blanton said he feels a sense of loyalty to Missouri, which was the first school to make an offer.
“From day one, they’ve been the school looking at me,” Kendall said. “All the other schools wanted to come out after I got this offer.”
Blanton said he also likes MU’s proximity to Blue Springs and, of course, the opportunity to catch a heap of passes in new offensive coordinator Josh Henson’s spread offense.
“Watching the spring game, they like to throw to their tight ends and spread them out wide and use them as an extra receiver,” Kendall said. “I’m sure they’ve got a lot more up their sleeves in their second year in the SEC.”
But while Blanton is no doubt eager to show people he has the ability to become a top-notch target, he also takes pride in his blocking, a facet of the game he got to work on plenty last season.
“Oh, I love blocking,” said Kendall, who grew up idolizing former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez for his all-round brilliance. “Anytime I get the chance to put somebody on their back, I’ll take it.”
However, it also looks as if Blanton will be doing a little less of that this season, because Oder — whose team went 5-5 last season — hopes he becomes more of an offensive weapon this fall.
“His hands are better, he’s a better blocker, he’s stronger now,” Oder said. “We’re hoping we’ll see even more out of him this year. He wasn’t a big part of what we did offensively last year, but he should create some problems with his size.”
If he does, it will go a long way toward validating the faith MU showed in him by offering and accepting his commitment so early.
“He passes the eye test,” Jerry said. “Now he has to pass the football test.”