ATHENS — Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship and his family have been told that the place-kicker will not be put on scholarship until next school year at the earliest, and even that is not a guarantee.
Head coach Kirby Smart informed the player and his father of that at a meeting Monday, according to someone close to the situation.
Blankenship is still planning to remain with the team, according to his older brother, Ken Blankenship, who was not in Monday’s meeting, but has since spoken to his father.
“He loves the team. But even more than ever he is so proud to be a contributing member of this team. He loves the Dawgs. He is not leaving the university. He is not going anywhere. He wants nothing more than to be part of it,” Ken Blankenship said. “He’s staying, in kind of a confused and disappointed state.”
Rodrigo Blankenship’s father, also named Ken, said in October that because of his financial situation that if his son was not put on scholarship by UGA, he would likely transfer. (Rodrigo, for his part, said back then that he was “just trying to focus on the things that I can control right now.”)
If Georgia put Blankenship on scholarship right away – for the spring semester – it would count against the team’s 2017 signing class. For that reason, it’s actually rare for teams to award scholarships to walk-on midway through the school year.
A team spokesman said no one from the football program was available to speak Tuesday.
Despite no scholarship guarantee, the family is now inclined to try to make it work. Ken Blankenship Sr. declined to comment, but Ken Jr. said the family was still upset about no scholarship being guaranteed.
“We think he has earned it already,” Ken Blankenship said. “My brother as a walk-on is being treated like a walk-on who didn’t even get on the field, or for only a few downs. But he led the team in scoring.”
Ken Blankenship said he also understood that Georgia is up against the NCAA scholarship limit of 85. But he also said he felt his brother had earned the right this past season to be guaranteed one of those 85 spots.
“You take care of your own,” Ken Blankenship said. “You take care of those in your family that take care of you. And you show them in return that you reward the hard work of your inner family with what they deserve.”
Rodrigo Blankenship, a redshirt freshman who took over as the main place-kicker in the third game of the season, finished 14-for-17 on field goals and perfect on all 26 extra point attempts. Ken Blankenship also pointed out his brother did that without being the place-kicker the first few games, but was named to the All-SEC freshman team.
It wasn’t all great: Blankenship ranked eighth in the SEC in kickoffs, averaging 62.2 yards per kickoff.
Self-described as quirky, Blankenship became a feel-good story after kicking the game-winning field goal at Kentucky, and then doing a postgame television interview with his helmet on.
(He did a subsequent mid-week interview with his helmet on again.)
Smart was non-committal in early November when asked about the situation.
“We determine that kind of stuff like at the end of the year,” Smart said. “We look at the whole and kind of where we’re at and go through recruiting. We’re obviously in hot pursuit of good specialists because that’s an area we’ve got to improve on. But that will be based off how he finishes up, the whole picture, where we are. He’s certainly done a great job and has gained a lot of confidence, which I’m fired up about.”