Rodrigo Blankenship can sometimes tell whether a kick will be a touchback or not, based on the way it comes off of his foot.
More times than not, the third-year kicker is able to limit his opposition to taking a knee and beginning possession on the 25-yard line. But when the kick goes out of the end zone, it serves as a bit of a surprise to Blankenship.
It’s a pleasant one, which creates a bit of celebration.
"Yes! They're not bringing that one out," Blankenship quietly shouts as he walks to the sideline after a successful boot.
Blankenship once struggled on kickoffs as in 2016 his touchback success stood at a 36 percent clip. A year later, the Sprayberry product has done so at a 77.4 percent rate - 24-of-31 kicks have resulted in touchbacks.
Georgia special teams analyst Scott Fountain has played a key role in Blankenship’s improvements. The former Auburn assistant is at practice daily with the Bulldogs’ specialists and has given Blankenship a goal of an 80 percent touchback rate.
While he’s not quite to that point, he continues to tinker with his approach and adjust each week.
“I think he’s kicked much more confident in practice,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I think the confidence of kicking off successfully has boosted his confidence, meaning the number of touchbacks he’s had has increased his confidence even on field goals because he knows he is kicking the ball well. The guy hit the upright the other day in Knoxville on one of those kicks. He’s hitting the ball good and I think that has helped his confidence.”
Blankenship added: “It definitely gives me a little bit more juice.”
The field goal production for Blankenship hasn’t been too bad either - although Georgia hasn’t been put in a position to need too many field goals this season. Blankenship is currently 5-of-6 on attempts, with the lone miss coming on a 44-yard attempt at Notre Dame.
One of the more-impressive makes for the place-kicker came against Mississippi State in which he solidly hit a 49-yarder. Blankenship had narrowly split the uprights from the same distance against Kentucky a year ago, and missed one against Auburn.
But the latest attempt was different.
"It was probably the best ball I've hit since I've been at Georgia," Blankenship said. "That was really clean, and I feel like I've had the ability to hit longer field goals. It's a matter of getting good contact on the ball so I can get all the way through it."
Blankenship’s campaign has resulted in a number of individual positives, including being named to a scholarship prior to the Notre Dame game. However, Georgia’s competition is still present and Blankenship is aware.
David Marvin, a graduate transfer from Wofford, is also on scholarship with the Bulldogs and has shown past ability to produce.
"I'd like to think it’s solidified, but in reality I know that I have to earn the right to go out and perform every single week," Blankenship said. "David is a really talented guy, and we have a lot of great competition during the week. If I were to have a sour week, there's plenty of faith that David could get the job done."