Reed Option Recruit Of The Week: Blake Gillikin
For the second week in a row, The Reed Option will focus on a committed kicking specialist. Blake Gillikin is the second Penn State special teams commit in the 2016 recruiting cycle and, like Quinn Nordin, his addition to the team couldn’t come soon enough.
Gillikin, by position, is one of the highest-rated prospects in Penn State’s class. He is rated as a top-ten punter by each of the four major recruiting services, ranking as high as No. 3 on 247 Sports. On all of these sites, Gillikin earned the elusive three-star rating — a rare feat for kickers, punters, and long-snappers. At 6’1”, 180 lbs. Gillikin played a big role in his Westminster School’s (Atlanta, GA) success over the course of his high school career. His prowess as a punter and kicker can be attributed to his participation in soccer as a dual-sport athlete.
Gillikin is one of the most offered punters in the class of 2016, and could’ve accepted a scholarship at a number of renowned institutions like Georgia, Northwestern, and Kentucky. His commitment came as a surprise to many, due to the fact that he was on Georgia’s campus just five days prior to his verbal and the fact that 88 percent of experts pegged him as a future Bulldog. Plenty of factors played into Gillikin’s decision, but a few notables stuck out. Playing time wasn’t an issue because most scholarship specialists expect to play early, but it’s evident that playing time wasn’t the only thing on Gillikin’s mind. The punter made it clear that he signed on with Penn State because he’s “closest with Coach Huff and Coach Williams,” and that Penn State gave him the best blend of football and academics.
As you can see in his highlight reel, Gillikin is a rare talent at punter. His skill goes beyond sheer power in his kicking (although he did kick a booming, career-long, 72 yard punt to the one yard line in the 2014 season), as he can pin opponents deep in their own territory with his precision punting. Gillikin averaged over 41 yards per punt in 2014, and was honored as a Georgia AAA All-State Honorable Mention as a junior, while winning All-Region and All-Area First Team punter awards. There’s a reason James Franklin made Gillikin the first punter to commit to Penn State since 247 Sports began tracking commitments in 1999, and his directional ability has a lot to do with that. Because he committed before Quinn Nordin, he also became the first specialist to commit since Sam Ficken in 2011.
Gillikin, although he won’t step on campus until the summer, is already making waves with Penn State fans. He and kicker commit Quinn Nordin have combined their names (Quinn and Blake) to form “Quake.” This name for the kicking tandem is not only fun, but gives Penn State fans something to look forward to for the next four years on special teams. “Me and Quinn were close before the season, and I hope we both end up at Penn State” he said with a laugh when asked about the pair.
Franklin and his staff know there’s an issue in the specialist department. Their two walk-on punters simply haven’t gotten the job done, so they pulled out all the stops on the recruiting trail, and ultimately landed a top prospect to fill that talent gap. According to Gillikin, he has shut down his recruiting and is “completely sold on Penn State.” Gillikin’s leg is a much needed and welcomed addition to the Penn State family. Hopefully, he can contribute from day one.