Georgia notebook: UGA kicker recognized for glasses as much as ability

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ATLANTA – Georgia placekicker Rodrigo Blankenship, with his trademark Rec Spec protective eyewear, has attracted almost a cult-like following on campus.

“Life is going pretty good right now,” Blankenship said during the Media Day event at Philips Arena on Saturday. “I got verified on Twitter yesterday (Friday), so that was pretty sweet.”

Twitter verifies an account of a person by attaching its official blue verified badge symbol, given to highly-sought celebrities and public figures.

Blankenship has connected on 17 of 20 field goal tries this year, including a career-best of 55 yards right before halftime during Georgia’s Rose Bowl double-overtime win over Oklahoma last week. Yet the senior has probably gotten more attention - and become a celebrity of sorts - for wearing thick glasses under his helmet during games.

He tried wearing thin-rimmed glasses during games at one point, much like the ones he was wearing during Media Day, but learned he wouldn’t be able to continue with those.

“It’s just to meet some equipment guidelines,” Blankenship said. “We’re not allowed to have any metal showing on our uniforms for games. Since the frames I had earlier in the season were metal frames, I wasn’t allowed to wear them.

“So I have the Rec Specs that I wear. They have the same prescription in the lenses, so it doesn’t affect my vision in any way. The specs are pretty sturdy, so even if I get knocked out on a kickoff return like I had against Vandy this season, the rec specs are going to be able to withstand it.

“I’ve tried contacts a couple of times in the past, but my eyes just can’t handle it.”

Blankenship somewhat understands why there is such a buzz about his glasses.

“I think maybe it’s because there are so few football players, especially, that have them,” Blankenship said. “I think glasses have become a little more popular in other sports. Basketball – there are some guys that are having them now. Baseball – Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves player) got them. But in football, it’s really rare.”

It was his long made field goal against Oklahoma that gave the Bulldogs a huge lift going into halftime. The kick came on the final play of the half and pulled Georgia within 31-17.

“It gave us a little bit of momentum and we used that momentum in the second half over time to come back and win that game,” Blankenship said. “And now we’re hoping to carry over some of that momentum into the next game.”

Georgia receiver Javon Wims has no doubts about the importance of the field goal.

“It was huge,” Wims said. “Every point counts in games like this. And it showed that it mattered.

“From watching him in practice, I knew he had the leg to get it. We just had to get a little bit closer for him and we did.”

Alabama Bulldog: Monty Rice, a freshman linebacker from Madison, Ala., says playing against Alabama for the national title doesn’t take on any extra significance for him.

“I don’t look at it like that,” Rice said of playing a team from his home state. “It could have been anybody. We just play. I wasn’t highly recruited by them. It is what it is.”

Rice has played in 13 of the Bulldogs’ 14 games and has 22 tackles. He enjoyed the experience of being part of the huge win in the Rose Bowl, but has put that game behind.

“It was an exciting game, but it’s time to move on to Alabama and that’s what we’ve done,” Rice said. “We want a national championship.”

Knowing Ridley: Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker coached Alabama in 2015 before moving on to the Bulldogs, thus is very familiar with many of the Crimson Tide players.

One of them his defense will be trying hard to defend is talented junior receiver Calvin Ridley.

Tucker was asked if having been around Ridley in the past has helped in preparations.

“I don’t know if there is an advantage there,” Tucker said. “I think what you see is what you get. When you look at the game tape, you see what Calvin can do.

“He’s very explosive. He’s gotten better and better every season. He runs excellent routes and has great balance and body control.

“He can make all the catches and is very competitive as a blocker. We know what he’s capable of doing.”

Surprise, surprise: Count Georgia head coach Kirby Smart among those surprised the game against Oklahoma ended up being an offensive shootout, won by Georgia 54-48 in double overtime.

Once again, he doesn’t expect the game against Alabama to have a lot of scoring on both sides.

“I think they (Alabama) have a really good defense, so I’d be shocked if it turns into that, but you never know,” Smart said. “You’ve got special teams plays that are a factor and turnovers can create points. So who knows? We’ll find out.”

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