Kicking it, old school

Several Tennessee football players are looking to bounce back from disappointing 2011 seasons. Sign in or subscribe now to read about one of the really key ones.

When Michael Palardy drilled a career-long 52-yard field goal to give Tennessee a 6-6 first-half tie with Alabama last Oct. 22, both he and the Vols appeared to be on a roll.

Appearances can be deceiving, however. Outscored 31-0 in the second half en route to a 37-6 loss to Bama, Tennessee then dropped three of its five remaining games to finish 5-7. Palardy's high was short-lived, as well. He made just one field goal in Tennessee's final five games — a 22-yarder versus South Carolina — and finished the season 9 for 14, including just 4 for 9 beyond 28 yards.

As a result, the rising junior is working hard this spring in hopes of redeeming himself in the fall.

"Last year was not where it should be," he said somberly. "I can't use being young as an excuse anymore ... going into my junior season. I just need to be more consistent."

There was nothing consistent about Palardy's 2011 season. As a result, he lost his confidence. Then he lost the confidence of the coaching staff and the fan base. He hopes to restore all of the above this spring.

"When I come out on the field, people have got to know that I'm going to hit it the way I should and it's going to be good or I'm going to get a touchback," he said. "I just need to build more consistency."

Although the 52-yard kick against Alabama provided a huge lift, the lift was temporary. Palardy's faith in his left leg gradually eroded.

Tennessee's Palardy is welcoming the addition of George Bullock (pictured) to the roster.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"I actually wasn't confident enough in myself. I was worried about messing up and making mistakes," he said. "I can't do that, especially as a kicker, because 80 percent of our game is mental. When you tell yourself that you're not going to hit it the way you should, you're not going to have the outcome you want. I've just got to be more confident in my leg and my power."

Palardy had an interesting outing in Friday's initial spring scrimmage. His first field-goal attempt, a 32-yarder, was blocked. He came back to nail a 37-yarder moments later, however. He also kicked off reasonably well from the 35-yard line ... five yards further upfield than NCAA rules mandated last fall.

"He kicked the ball off pretty well," head coach Derek Dooley said following the scrimmage. "I have to look at the film but it was popping off his leg better than I've seen. That was a good, encouraging thing. He is enjoying them moving it up (to the 35-yard line). He's lobbying for the 40 now."

Palardy could be a key figure this fall, since Tennessee projects to play a lot of close games that might hinge on a made or missed field goal in the fourth quarter. He believes each kick he drills in April will make the clutch kicks in September, October and November a little easier.

"Consistency builds confidence," he said. "I always say it doesn't matter how many kicks you make before that; it's that one kick that wins the game for you that matters most. I definitely need to build consistency; with that comes confidence. I've been working on that more than anything ... just building consistency."

Palardy's confidence may have taken a hit in February. Dooley signed Knoxville native George Bullock to come in and challenge for the first-team kicking job. Still, Palardy says he doesn't feel slighted or threatened.

"We can always use more help," he said. "The more depth at every position, the better. I'm excited to work with him, take him under my wing. We'll learn from each other. I'll learn from him; he'll learn from me, so I'm excited."

To hear special teams coach Charlie Coiner speak on a variety of topics on April 4, click play on the video below:


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