To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’re counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.
CLEMSON’S NO. 7 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
TRAVIS BLANKS, SOPHOMORE, SAFETY
The Sunday entry suggested Mackensie Alexander could make an impact immediately as a freshman defensive back from Florida. Kind of like what Blanks did last fall. Blanks was one of the league’s best first-year playmakers, earning the start as early as week two against Ball State and recording seven solo tackles in his first career road game at Florida State. He had a clutch pass deflection at Boston College, and capped his year with a spectacular all-hands interception of Zach Mettenberger to snuff a late first-half threat in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Clemson occasionally will utilize that nickelback position, and Blanks was a great fit as a hybrid safety/linebacker as a freshman. This year, after the departures of Rashard Hall, Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks, Blanks will be counted upon to play center field as a free safety on all three downs.
Height/weight: 6-1, 190
Hometown: Tallahassee, Fla.
Last year: Second-team Freshman All-American by FoxSports.com, thanks to his 51 tackles and seven pass breakups while playing all 13 games (eight starts)
COMING TUESDAY: No. 6