In recent years the ACC has gained more respect in the college football world. The respect is earned by winning big games. The way you win big games is to have big time players in your conference. Two big time players over the last few years have been Virginia’s Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding. The ACC spotlight this week focuses on the pair.
Kiser, the senior linebacker for UVA, and Blanding, the senior defensive back, have been consistent contributors for Hoos for the last three or four years. While UVA has had some rough seasons recently, the defensive stalwarts have helped Bronco Mendenhall’s crew get off to its best start in over 10 years as they are now 3-1 so far this season. That includes last week’s road win over Boise State. UVA’s 42-23 win was the worst loss suffered by Boise State on the blue turf since 2001.
Blanding led the way with 10 tackles, including seven solo tackles. Kiser contributed nine tackles and two passes defended. Leading the way with tackles is something these two are used to in the ACC.
Kiser is leading the ACC in tackles in 2017 with 45 tackles. That’s good for 11 tackles-per-game. Kiser led the ACC last season as well with 134 tackles, also good for 11-tackles-per-game. In 2015 Kiser was third in the ACC with 117 tackles, for an average of 10 tackles-per-game. So far this year Kiser already has five sacks after recording 6.5 sacks total in 2016. He is clearly one of the nation’s best linebackers with a bright future. Mendenhall is depending on Kiser to help lead UVA to their first bowl game since 2011.
It’s rare that one defense has two guys at the top of the conference statistics but that’s where you can find Blanding too. So far this season he is second in the tackles in the ACC with 43 tackles, also good for 11 tackles-per-game. In 2016 he was second behind Kiser in the ACC in total tackles with 120, good for 11 tackles-per-game. In 2015 he was 4th in the ACC in total tackles with 115 total tackles. As a freshman in 2014, he was third in the ACC in total tackles with 123. You rarely see that type of production from a freshman defensive back.
Needless to say, the production these two players have given UVA their entire career is impressive. The fact they’ve done this for three or four years is just hard to fathom. Now, in their senior season, they’re locks to be 1st Team All-ACC and will be in the running to be All-Americans if the voters pay attention. As I mentioned earlier, if the Hoos are going to make their first bowl game in years, they will do it on the backs of two of the best defenders in the ACC. Keep an eye on these future NFL draft picks. They’re fun to watch, unless you’re a fan of the team they’re playing against in any given week.