After what was for an intents and purposes ‘Black Friday’ with the Justin Fields transfer and early exits for the NFL Draft, Georgia did end up getting better news on the looking toward 2019 front over the weekend.
First came Saturday with all-american kicker, folk hero and special teams trick play participant Rodrigo Blankenship announcing that he’ll be back for another year in Athens.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Dawg Nation, I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE #GoDawgs #UnfinishedBusiness #RespectTheSpecs pic.twitter.com/iTTG2lcA97— Rodrigo Blankenship (@RodTheKicker3) January 5, 2019
Blankenship has already earned his undergrad from the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications with cum laude honors, so leaving now would not mean foregoing a degree. For kickers, as you saw in Sunday night’s NFC Wild Card game, are a dime a dozen. The NFL will always be there for kickers, college will not, and that appears to resonate with Blankenship, whose loss would be dented the morale of casual fans given his folk hero status.
After talking with my family and Coach Smart, I have decided to come back to the University of Georgia for my last year of eligibility. #EatGreedy #ChampionshipSZN#GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/C9RkUE9IHQ— JR Reed (@Jr_Reed1) January 7, 2019
Then came Sunday with safety JR Reed making the news public that he’ll be in Athens for his senior year.
Reed’s news is huge for multiple reasons. First, if you’re looking for returning leadership, it does not get much more critical than Reed, who was a team captain this year and started 14 games. Throw in that and his 66 tackles being second on the team, and you have experienced and ability back.
Kirby Smart noted multiple concerns, even between the lines this year, of this team’s leadership compared to a year ago. Having a guy like Reed returning goes a long way in setting the stage for next year’s leaders to take the mantle even more.