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Rodrigo Blankenship made 14 field goals last season for the Bulldogs.

Own the East: Georgia K Rodrigo Blankenship

Chip Towers

Editor’s Note: It may be time for the Georgia Bulldogs to take back the SEC East in 2017. We’ve featured the most important UGA players, coaches, fans and staff for the upcoming season in a 20-part video series, which you can binge-watch right here.

ATHENS — No matter what happens on the field this fall, one has to admire the loyalty and dedication of Rodrigo Blankenship.

The redshirt sophomore from Marietta enters the season as Georgia’s No. 1 placekicker. Whether he keeps that job depends on how he fares under pressure.

Blankenship earned SEC All-Freshman honors and Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), but Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has made it clear that he hasn’t been thrilled by the production at the position. He has kept the competitive heat on Blankenship, bringing in transfers to contend for the job and recruiting blue-chippers.

But even though he has yet to earn a scholarship from UGA, the walk-on from Sprayberry High has vowed to stand pat and take on all comers. He hopes to handle both placement kicks and kickoffs for Georgia again this fall.

Blankenship did that effectively last season. Despite not taking over the position full time until the fourth game — William Ham began the season as the starter — Blankenship made 77.8 percent of his field goal attempts (14 of 18), which was sixth in the SEC. He was a perfect 26 of 26 on point-after attempts and finished as the team’s leading scorer with 68 points.

Blankenship’s career highlight came when he kicked four fields in a 27-24 win over Kentucky — including a game-winning 49-yarder as time expired.

He earned regional fame when he conducted his postgame interview with the SEC Network still wearing his helmet and trademark “rec specs.” After that, the phrase “Respect the Specs” became associated with Blankenship, and he remains a favorite son of the Bulldog Nation.

Nevertheless, Blankenship must defend his position. Smart is hoping to get increased field goal range and deeper kickoffs and brought in graduate transfer David Marvin from Wofford to compete for the job. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have a commitment from Jake Camarda of Norcross High for the Class of 2018. He is ranked as the No. 1 kicking specialist in the nation, according to 247Sports.

If Blankenship comes through and holds on to his job, he will be another reason Georgia will own the East.

Click here to see more of “Own the East,” our 2017 season preview of the Georgia Bulldogs in video form.

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