Surprise: Blanton Chooses South Carolina

MADISON – Stone Blanton blindsided many a quarterback in his five years as a starter at MRA.

He pulled a similar move Monday when it came time to make his college destination known.

While many assumed Blanton, a duel-sport athlete, would ultimately stay in Mississippi, the four-star linebacker instead opted to commit to South Carolina. He announced his decision during a ceremony inside Duease Hall, two days ahead of the start of the early signing period.

“A lot of prayer and thought went into it, I talked to my family about it for a long time and in the end we decided it was the best decision for me,” Blanton said. “The coaching staff is about as good as it gets, and I loved it there went I went on my visit. The facilities were incredible, and the people were even better.”

Blanton, who committed to play baseball at Mississippi State on Jan. 23, 2020, has long considered to be leaning to the Bulldogs. However, the football Under Armour All-American will be taking his considerable talent out of state. Blanton, pegged as a potential Top-10 round MLB selection by Perfect Game, is expected to play both baseball and football in college.

Blanton, the No. 1 ranked linebacker in the state, will officially sign with the Gamecocks on Wednesday. He picked South Carolina over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. He also received offers from Auburn, Michigan, Oregon and Stanford among others.

“It was such a tough decision,” said Blanton, donned in a blue suit, white button down shirt and a black South Carolina hat with a Gamecock logo on the front. “All these schools are amazing, the hardest part was picking just one. It was definitely the hardest decision of my life. Leaving home is a big leap of faith. But I’m super content with it, very happy. I have a lot of peace about it.”

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Blanton, a Dandy Dozen selection, was anything but peaceful on the football field during his high school career. Known for his bone-jarring hits, he collected 124 tackles this past season as a senior to go along with a team-high 26 tackles for loss and 11 sacks en route to winning the MAIS Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year honors. Those totals came in 12 ½ games as he missed the Patriots' season-opener and played only the first half of the second game while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.

Blanton, the No. 9 recruit in the state and 36th ranked linebacker nationally according to 247 Sports composite rankings, anchored a defense which allowed seven or fewer points in seven games this season. That stout defense and high-scoring offense powered MRA to a third consecutive state championship. The Patriots finished 11-3, winning their final 10 games, including a 42-7 win over Hartfield in the title game.

“He’s going to be tough to replace . . . well, really we can’t replace him,” said MRA coach Herbert Davis, who has coached Blanton the entirety of his high school career. “Obviously, you lose a five-year starter it’s going to be tough, but when you lose a player of Stone’s caliber, it makes it downright impossible. He brought so many x-factors to the game on Friday nights. I think South Carolina is getting a great one. I think he will go in there and play pretty early, I really do. He’s smart, and he understands the game. He’ll have to up his ante a little bit, but he’s smart enough and good enough to do that. That’s why I think he’s going to be so successful.”

Blanton took an official visit to South Carolina this past summer and returned to Columbia for the Gamecocks’ final game of the season against Clemson. Defensive coordinator Clayton White took an in-home visit to meet Blanton and his family two weeks ago before returning to Mississippi along with head coach Shane Beamer last week for a visit to MRA.

South Carolina finished the regular season 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference in Beamer’s first year at the helm in Columbia. The Gamecocks upset Florida and Auburn and earned their first bowl berth since 2018.

Blanton, a Butkus Award finalist, made the call Saturday night.

“I really liked the culture at South Carolina, and I think the program has a lot of potential,” Blanton said. “I like where the program is headed. I’m an MRA Patriot forever, I don’t want to leave this place. But at the same time I’m excited about the new beginning.”