“It was just like every other game I’ve been to where when you get in there the whole stadium is packed, but the ‘Stripe Out’ was cool because each section was a different color,” Blankenship said. “Of course there were crazy fans with face paint in the front row. It was nice – it was really nice.”
Blankenship, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder from Marietta (Ga.) Sprayberry, is considered the No. 3 ranked kicker in the nation by Chris Sailer. Sailer also ranks Blankenship as the No. 42 best punter in the nation. Additionally, Blankenship has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Following the receiving of UNC’s invitation, Blankenship researched the school. He then phoned Director of Player Personnel Rory Pommerening to learn more.
“He was just talking about how many kickers they had,” Blankenship said. “I think he said they had nine specialists on their roster right now. But he said they hadn’t been very consistent. So they’re scrambling to find somebody that they can use.”
Pommerening didn’t go into detail about whether UNC was considering offering a scholarship to a kicker or simply a preferred walk-on opportunity.
Blankenship has received scholarship offers from Army, UAB, and Navy, as well as FCS programs Cornell, Mercer, and Wofford. Georgia has offered him a preferred walk-on spot.
“I’ve talked to some of the coaches over there [at Georgia] and with the grades that I have now, I’d probably be eligible for a HOPE Scholarship,” Blankenship said. “So I could be on an academic scholarship for a year and red-shirt. And then once Marshall Morgan graduated, they could put me on an athlete scholarship.”
According to Blankenship, the lower division schools are looking for him to handle both place kicking and punting duties, whereas the FBS programs, including UNC, see him as a kicker.
When he arrived at UNC on Saturday, Blankenship caught up with Pommerening, who attempted to introduce Blankenship to Jonathan Rutledge, the Tar Heels’ special teams graduate assistant. However, Blankenship’s arrival time prevented such a meeting from occurring.
Besides UNC, Blankenship has visited Alabama, Army, Auburn, Davidson, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Rutgers at some point in the past two years. Through those trips, Mississippi State and Rutgers have emerged as favorites.
“Rutgers would be good for me, because they have just the major I’m looking for,” Blankenship said. “They have journalism and I can specialize in broadcasting. And then I can go on and be an ESPN broadcaster – guys you see on Saturdays. If they were to offer me a scholarship, which I’m pretty sure they’re going to.
“With Mississippi State, I just like the fact that I think they’re on the rise in the SEC,” Blankenship said. “They’re becoming a better program each year. And I really like the coaches over there – even though you’re not supposed to get too attached to them, because there’s a lot of turnover [in college football]… I talked to Coach [Dan] Mullen in his office in the summer and he told me some very encouraging things based on the performance of their kickers this year, they’d be interested [in me].”
Blankenship is still in the feeling out stages with UNC.
“I don’t know if I’d say it’s too high just yet,” Blankenship said. “I don’t know too much about [UNC] – as far as their history in the conference and what kind of specialists they produced and if they have my major.”
If UNC continues to show interest, though, Blankenship is willing to research the school more. That research could be in the form of an official visit.
Blankenship is also considering official visits to Army, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Rutgers.
Sprayberry is 0-2, but Blankenship has done his part. He has converted both of his field goal attempts (31 and 27 yards), 4-for-4 on PATs, and all of his kickoffs have landed in the end zone for touchbacks. He averages over 71 yards on kickoffs and 47 yards on five punts.
As a junior, Blankenship connected on a 53-yard field goal. Also that season, he converted 14-of-23 field goal attempts and all 31 of his PATs. Nearly 80-percent of his kickoffs were booted for touchbacks, while he averaged 41.8 yards on 40 punts.
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