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Blanding, Kiser to Lead UVA

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Now juniors, Quin Blanding and Micah Kiser move into leadership roles as Bronco Mendenhall takes over.

As former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall takes over at Virginia, he will look to improve a defense that ranked last in the ACC in scoring a year ago, allowing over 32 points per game. A former team captain at Oregon State, Mendenhall has a defensive background and focus. In Charlottesville, he inherits two of the premier players in the country at free safety and outside linebacker, respectively.  

Quin Blanding signed with the Cavaliers as a five-star prospect in 2014 and immediately lived up to expectations. He ranked third in the league with 123 tackles in his debut year and tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Blanding proved to be an instinctive talent, reading and recognizing plays as they unfolded. Last season was more of the same, with 115 total tackles and the most solo stops on the team. Blanding earned some All-American recognition this past fall and has been one of the conference's more-hyped players this summer.

Micah Kiser, 7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, is a proven playmaker on the edge. He burst onto the scene a year ago, moving from mostly special teams to all-conference teams. Showcase games with nationally-ranked UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State served as an early springboard for Kiser, who developed into a top-level pass-rusher. Additionally, It was he who led Virginia with 117 total tackles.

Now juniors, Blanding and Kiser move into leadership roles as Mendenhall takes over.

In two seasons, Virginia has lost a staggering ten contests by one score. Included in that frame are narrow defeats to the likes of Miami, Notre Dame, UCLA and Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers have been a lot of things as of late, perhaps, most notably, close. Continued progression from the likes of Blanding and Kiser can help Virginia improve.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports