2020 Senior Bowl Preview: Specialists

Photo: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

While most eyes will be on the quarterbacks and one-on-one drills, many will fail to pay attention to the specialist.

A fitting name as they are all expected to perform during special moments in games, there's always a couple names that are glossed over. Last season, we saw punter Mitch Wishnowsky become a fourth-round selection and while we may not see a specialists from this crop go as high, there are others who may be deemed worthy as draftable.

Most Talented: Rodrigo Blankenship, Kicker, Georgia

Despite being a specialist, Blankenship was one of the most popular players on the team. His mother, Izabella's, side of the family hails from Brazil, which is where he spent some of his time growing up participating in soccer. Known for his artistic and musical side, he played the drums in the local church and enjoys watercolor painting. A three-time Special Teams Player of the Year winner at Sprayberry High School (GA), Blankenship had a career long of 56 yards.

The relationship between Blankenship and Georgia has been ongoing since his days in middle school. Attending nearly every camp within the state and nationally, the Bulldogs had significant interest in him for quite some time prior to his career in Athens. Despite the attentiveness to the kicker, the school never offered him, and he opted to walk-on to the team under a provisional scholarship, which awarded him with one after his first season.

A broadcast journalism major, his father, Ken, was a former writer for the Marietta Daily Journal, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution among many others. Blankenship graduated with his undergraduate degree in December 2018 and his focus remains on one day becoming a sports journalist. A huge hit and celebrity on campus, even having his own hashtag (#RespecttheSpecs), most students on campus and even his teammates refer to him as “Hot Rod” or “Goggles” because of his signature eyewear that he wears under his helmet on game day.

Finishing his career as the programs all-time leading scorer, he went on to become the winner of the 2019 Lou Grouza Award, which is given to the nation’s top placekicker. Blankenship became the first Georgia kicker to ever win the award. He also broke the SEC record with 198 consecutive extra points made.

Underrated Prospect: Tyler Bass, Kicker, Georgia Southern

During his final season at Dutch Fork High School (SC), Bass earned the Chris Sailer Award, which is awarded to the top high school placekicker in the country. A standout senior year, he finished with making 18-of-20 field goals and 74-of-76 extra points that included a career long 47-yarder. During his entire high school career, he converted 239-of-249 career extra points and was 28-of-33 on field goal attempts.

Despite his success, he was only offered a preferred walk-on spot by Clemson and Georgia Southern. Electing to take his talents further south, he redshirted during his first season on campus (2015). As a redshirt freshman, he started all 12 games as the teams kickoff specialist, but remained the backup field goal kicker. Bass finished with 45 touchbacks on 66 total attempts and 6-of-7 on point after attempts. Taking over the starting spot as the Eagles placekicker in all 12 games, he finished the season 15-of-19 with nine of his kicks coming from 40-plus yards.

As the kickoff specialist, 46 of his 54 attempts went for touchbacks. As a redshirt junior (2018), his development exploded. Starting all 13 games, 52-of-76 attempts went for touchbacks, and he also finished a perfect 45-for-45 on point after attempts. His greatest accomplishment came as he was 19-of-21 on field goals, which included a season long of 50 yards. His 19 made field goals tied a program record. Prior to his redshirt senior season, he was voted as a team captain. A steady final year, he was the team leader in points scored with 96. 

Best Story: Blake Ferguson, Long Snapper, LSU

The Tennessee roots run deep with the Ferguson family as both of his parents are Volunteer alums, but it’s LSU that sparked his interest the most while growing up. His older brother, Reid, is a former long snapper for the Tigers (2012-2015) and currently for the Buffalo Bills. Blake began snapping in the seventh-grade and fell in love with it as he traveled back and forth with his parents from his games at Buford High School (Georgia) to New Orleans to watch his brother.

At the age of 13, Blake was diagnosed with type one diabetes and he has since used his condition to raise his awareness and partner with many foundations in order to continue research for findings about cures for the disease. A part of a program that has a storied tradition with winning 11 state championships, including two for Reid (2008, 2009) and three for Blake (2012, 2013, 2014), neither were known as high caliber types of athletes. Knowing this, Blake found his niche with long snapping and that was his personal way of contributing to a historic run.

After attending multiple camps hosted by former NFL snapper Chris Rubio in Georgia, Blake became ranked as the top long snapper in the country and the recipient of the annual Chris Rubio Award during both his junior and senior seasons. The award is awarded to the top long snapper in the country. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Blake signed with the Tigers. After redshirting in 2015, he returned the following season and started all 12 games handling all snapping duties on every special teams unit. Since he opening season, Ferguson has not missed a game and prior to his redshirt junior season (2018), he was named a permanent team captain.

Off the charts accomplishments off of the field as he graduated with his degree in marketing and recently obtained his MBA. Ferguson is frequently involved in the local community in Baton Rouge as he’s had a helping hand with Athletes for Hope and Read Across America.

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Founder of ClimbingThePocket.com. Former QB and Coach at North Carolina Central Univ.