ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia football’s spring media guide, handed out on Tuesday’s first day of practice, lists a dozen “Bulldogs to watch.” Second on the list, in alphabetical order, is Rodrigo Blankenship.
Despite everything, Blankenship is still here, beginning spring practice as Georgia’s kicker. Where things go from here, however, remain muddled.
“Rodrigo is our kicker this spring,” Smart said. “We’re going to have competition at that position. We’re going to have competition at every single position. That includes fall camp, that includes this spring. When we go out there and kick, (Blankenship) will be the guy kicking.”
Blankenship emerged as one of the feel-good stories of Georgia’s season, and then became one of the most controversial.
After initially losing the kicking job in the preseason, Blankenship won the job back and made 14 of 18 field-goal attempts and all his extra-point tries, being named to the SEC All-freshman team by the league’s coaches. He was the team’s leading scorer with 68 points.
But his father, Ken Blankenship, went public with concerns about his son remaining a walk-on despite his on-field success. The situation could lead to Rodrigo having to transfer elsewhere, his father wrote. Eventually, Rodrigo posted a message attempting to diffuse the situation.
This fall the team is expected to bring in David Marvin, who is transferring in from Wofford. Marvin would arrive as a blueshirt — technically as a walk-on after preseason practice begins and then is awarded a scholarship.
Marvin said in February his understanding is that he’s coming in to compete at kicker.
“Obviously we’ve got a guy who will come in in the fall as well who will have a chance to kick,” Smart said. “I think the more situations we can put those guys in punting and kicking will be good for us.”
At punter, rising sophomore Marshall Long will miss most of the the spring after breaking his kneecap late in the season. But Smart said Long will be able to do some situational work in practice, just not 11-on-11 work.
Senior Cameron Nizialek, a transfer from Columbia, is with the team this spring.
“Cameron, we’re excited about,” Smart said. “I haven’t really been able to see him do anything yet. Today will be our first chance to see him kick. We’ll also have a lot of other guys out there competing as well. We plan on putting those guys in a lot of situations to kick in a lot of pressure situations, try to simulate what they would get in the fall. I am excited to see where the punters are with the guys we’ve got, to see if we can improve as far as distance and hang.”