The first couple of days adjusting to his new technique were tough to deal with. Georgia sophomore place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship wasn’t seeing the kind of immediate results he would have preferred when it came to kickoffs.
But Blankenship stuck with the tweaks. The goal was make his approach “tighter to the ball” so he could follow through more than he did a year ago when he averaged 62.2 yards per attempt with 20 touchbacks.
Over time, and after the adjustment period, Blankenship’s kicks began to lengthen out. Soon, he was consistently booting the ball into the end zone. That practice showed in Georgia’s season-opening 31-10 win over Appalachian State Saturday.
Blankenship averaged 65 yards per kickoff and notched five touchbacks. Extrapolated over a 12-game season, that would put the former Sprayberry standout on pace for 60 touchbacks.
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Blankenship said those first couple of days working on the new technique were tough to get through. But as he said, sticking with the plan has certainly paid off.
“The first couple of days I changed my set they actually weren’t going very far,” Blankenship said. “That’s what happens when you’re adjusting your technique though. No matter the position, I think that it’s in a player’s best interest to always continue to improve his technique. The first couple of days it wasn’t working out so hot. I stuck with it and eventually started to see they were consistently going a little further.”
After Saturday’s game, Smart expressed his pleasure with how Blankenship kicked off, which was a sound improvement from Georgia's kickoff game a year ago.
“Rodirgo kicked it in the end zone and was a weapon,” Smart said.
Blankenship hasn’t had it easy since walking on to Georgia’s football team in 2015. After redshirting in former head coach Mark Richt’s final season, Blankenship was beat out by William Ham during the preseason of head coach Kirby Smart’s first campaign.
Blankenship would eventually take over place-kicking duties in the fourth week of the season, however, and hold on to the job throughout the year. Blankenship concluded his redshirt freshman year with an FWAA freshman All-American nod after hitting 14-of-18 field goals with a long of 49 yards. Despite that fact, he didn’t earn a scholarship, with Georgia electing to give one to Wofford graduate transfer David Marvin instead.
But during the summer and preseason, Blankenship and Marvin went through some competitions that head coach Kirby Smart described as “tight.”
Blankenship ultimately edged Marvin out, showing more consistency with both his field goals and kickoffs. Still not on scholarship, Blankenship said he has taken out some student loans to pay for college. With defensive lineman Chauncey Manac surprisingly leaving the program recently, a scholarship seemingly has opened up, although it may be too late for Blankenship, or any other walk-on, to receive one for the 2017 season.
But Blankenship said whether he is on scholarship or not, he will continue to treat his status on the football team the same.
“You have to win your job day in and day out,” Blankenship said. “That’s just the approach I had. I had to go out and do the best I can to try and be the best kicker I can for this team.”