Last season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior made all 22 of his point-after attempts and was 7-of-11 on field goal opportunities. He also led Cobb County with a 42.4-yard punting average, with a long of 71.
A first-team Class AAAAA all-state selection, Blankenship has his priorities set high entering the 2014 season, and he wants to improve in a lot of areas that will not only help his Sprayberry teammates, but also himself as he contemplates where he’d like to play in college.
“I hope to get 100-percent touchbacks on all my kickoffs and make sure I make some 50-plus-yard field goals,” said Blankenship, a member of the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal Dynamite Dozen team. “I also want to keep my punting average over 40 yards, so I can help my team with field position.”
Blankenship is also working on his directional punting. He believes his hang time averages around 4.4 to 4.5 seconds in the air, which gives his teammates on special teams enough time to get downfield to make the tackle. By pinning opponents down inside the 5- and 10-yard lines with a directional kick, Blankenship can keep momentum swings to a minimum.
“Directional punting is definitely a key to my success,” he said. “I always work on that. It helps when you don’t give the other team a chance to make a play. The longer it takes for them to get down the field and score, the more chances they have of making a mistake and your defense can capitalize.”
Blankenship’s also working on the delivery of his punts. A rugby-style kicker, he’s working to improve his delivery as a conventional kicker who gets the snap and immediately delivers the punt.
“I take a few steps to the side of my kicking leg before I kick,” Blankenship said. “I’m trying to eliminate that and just move forward and deliver the kick. I’m trying to make it a more conventional kick because the guys come at you pretty fast in college.”
Blankenship has received scholarship offers from UAB, Mercer, Wofford, Cornell and Army. He is also being recruited by Georgia, Mississippi State, Rutgers, Alabama and South Carolina.
It’s attention that’s not always afforded kickers and punters, much like former NFL punter Ray Guy who had to wait 28 years from the end of his career before becoming the first full-time punter enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend.
In addition to Guy, only one pure kicker, Jan Stenerud, is in the Hall of Fame.
“Hopefully, there’ll be more kickers and punters to follow Ray Guy into the Hall of Fame,” he said. “It’s a nice goal for me to get. If I make the league, I want to make a big impact, and make it possible for me to get to the Hall of Fame, too.”
But before he gets to the NFL, Blankenship is excited to get his final season at Sprayberry started. He knows it’s another opportunity for him to showcase his talents.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I wish it was (the scrimmage) next Friday already. I know some of the bigger scouts will be at games looking at (teammates) Bailey (Sharp) and Jabari (Zuniga). Hopefully, when they see those guys, they’ll be able to see me, too.”