Did you expect less?
Blanchard’s summer baseball season ended Saturday night when his team was eliminated in the first round of the Cape Cod League playoffs and the junior quarterback expects to be in Jacksonville State’s football camp early this week.
“I’m really excited about getting back and being a football player,” he said Sunday morning while stuck in traffic somewhere in New York City. “Playing baseball for two seasons (college and summer), I’m excited to get back and strap on the pads.”
Blanchard was expected to complete the drive home sometime Monday and anticipated being on the football field for the first time either Tuesday or Wednesday. Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe said he wanted Blanchard to pick and return when he would be emotionally ready to perform.
The plan has always been for Blanchard to play in the season opener at Arkansas, probably going in on the third series as always. But with camp already underway, the coaches are likely to have only a limited package for him. Even Blanchard expects he’ll be worked in “kind of slow” as he gets back into football shape.
“We’ve got to be smart with him; we can’t overload him,” offensive coordinator Ronnie Letson said during the Gamecocks’ media day. “We’ll have something for him definitely the Arkansas game … we’re idiots if we don’t. We’ll do whatever he can do.”
Asked how long he thought it would take to get back into football mode, Blanchard replied, “maybe five minutes” upon his arrival.
“I enjoy jumping right into it,” he said. “I feel if I have a break, that’s too much time to think, for me. I’d rather jump back into it. That’s what I’ve always done.”
Blanchard has been going non-stop at JSU since he arrived in 2010 — and that was after regularly playing three sports in high school. He was thrust into the Gamecocks’ full-time starting quarterback role last season after Marques Ivory fractured his fibula in the opener, and then moved right into baseball — foregoing spring football for the second straight year — before dovetailing into the Cape Cod Summer League.
He batted .264 in the wood-bat league with six doubles, 15 RBIs and eight stolen bases. He even pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the final regular-season game, topping out at 92 mph and even throwing a knuckleball. His Falmouth Commodores were eliminated in the first round of the league playoffs in two games.
Last fall, he passed for 1,703 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the Ohio Valley Conference with a 145.1 pass efficiency rating. He also rushed for 427yards and six touchdowns.
The Gamecocks have been in football camp for a week and begin two-a-days Tuesday, when they are expected to hold a limited scrimmage.
“I miss those guys,” Blanchard said. “Over the last year we got really close. I’m sure they’re looking forward to seeing me as much as I am them.
“It was a great experience up here, a lot of fun, but honestly, I’m just ready to get back. I want to have a great football season. I know all the people we have coming back, we have a real shot at winning the national championship. Whatever I can do to help right away, I’m all for it. I can’t wait.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.