It’s not a position battle on the forefront of too many conversations. But it’s one of significant importance, considering close games are often decided by the foot of a place-kicker.
With Marshall Morgan graduating after his four years with the program, the Bulldogs will break in a new kicker to handle extra points and field goals.
Following the G-Day spring game, redshirt freshman Rodrigo Blankenship came out looking like a front-runner, having nailed a 46-yard field goal and just missing on one from 48.
But according to sources with knowledge of the situation, the kicking competition is at least even at this stage between Blankenship and third-year sophomore William Ham.
Throughout summer workouts, the two have engaged in a number of kicking competitions and Ham has made this a close battle to watch during preseason practice in August.
Georgia’s coaches, including head coach Kirby Smart, have apparently been impressed with Ham since he re-joined the program in the spring. Ham walked on to Georgia as a freshman in 2014 but left the team prior to the start of the 2015 season.
Former head coach Mark Richt reached out to Ham during the middle of last season about re-joining the football program, with Smart honoring the agreement reached between the previous staff and the former Stratford Academy standout.
Blankenship, who played high school football at Sprayberry, competed for a couple of roles early last preseason – kickoff duties and at punter – before a decision was made to redshirt him. Blankenship has also stood out since the kicking competition began in the spring. Through the spring scrimmages and G-Day game, a source stated Blankenship connected on 84 percent of his combined field goal and extra point attempts. Blankenship actually made his 46-yarder at G-Day despite dealing with a minor leg upper leg injury.
During the summer, on-field coaches are only allowed eight hours per week with their players, with two of those devoted to football-related meetings or film review. A lot of this on-field work is not open for viewing among the coaching staff.
But this position, which Smart stated worry over immediately after taking the Georgia head coaching job, isn’t deemed as concerning based on what’s transpired since the spring. Mitchell Wasson, a walk-on freshman from Lassiter, will also compete with Blankenship and Ham when practice begins in August.
Ham did not have a good G-Day game as he missed one field goal on a laces-in hold and had another kicked into the offensive line following a poor snap and hold. Smart defended Ham afterward and said that day wasn’t reflective of how he’d performed throughout the spring.
"Ham has kicked really well all spring," Smart said. "I know that’s shocking to you after (G-Day) but some of that was a byproduct of either a low snap or a poor spin on the hold. Obviously, I was pleased Rodrigo hit the long (46-yard) field goal. Rodrigo and Ham have both kicked surprisingly well when it comes to field goals."
There’s still a ways to go before this competition is determined. While the top position battle is at quarterback, a special-teams showdown could be on the horizon this preseason.
"I can tell you right now, there are going to be one or two games where it’s going to come down to special teams," former Georgia punter Drew Butler said recently. "They say five plays each game creates the outcome. There’s no doubt a big punt or a big kick is going to be a win or a loss for Georgia. As a Bulldog fan and as a former Bulldog, I hope it’s a win. I know coach Smart, coming from Alabama, they know the importance of special teams and how important special teams can be winning national championships. Let’s let the coaches do their work and hope the players can respond."