Vols won't stand PAT

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Fans were upset with Tennessee's special-teams play in a 51-44 Game 5 loss at Georgia, and justifiably so: The Vols botched yet another PAT, missed a 28-yard field goal and had a punt blocked that set up a crucial Bulldog touchdown.

Charlie Coiner was upset with Tennessee's special-teams play, too, and his frustration was even more justifiable: He's the special-team's coach.

Although the blocked punt cost the Vols six points and the missed field goal cost them three, the missed PAT may have been the most aggravating development of all. The Vols have botched four conversion kicks in the first five games, which must be a program record ... maybe an SEC record for a kick most teams consider automatic.

"It's inexcusable," Coiner said. "It's just inexcusable. We've asked this question a lot, and it's a fair question: We're a college football program, and you don't miss PATs."

Thus far, however, the 2012 Vols are the exception to this rule. The other 13 SEC teams have missed just seven PATs combined. The Big Orange has missed four all by itself. Nine conference teams are hitting 100 percent. Tennessee is hitting 84 percent (21 of 25).

To their credit, the Vols aren't standing pat on the PAT. After missing one in the opener versus North Carolina State and another in Game 2 versus Georgia State, Michael Palardy was replaced by walk-on Derrick Brodus. He misfired on a PAT in Game 3 against Florida, however, then missed another in Game 5 at Georgia. Palardy took over late in the Georgia game and will handle the placement chores this Saturday in Game 6 at Mississippi State.

Coiner is understandably concerned that neither kicker has proven himself dependable to date.

"Whatever it takes for whichever one to make PATs, we need to make 'em," the Vol aide said. "At the end of the day, you make PATs."

Perhaps Palardy and Brodus have developed mental blocks. Many kickers say their job is 90 percent between the ears and only 10 percent physical.

"I agree. I'm not disputing that," Coiner said. "But whatever it is — whether it's mental or physical — make PATs. Everybody makes PATs."

After earning the top spot as Tennessee's kicker for a pair of games, Derrick Brodus is back to the bench.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
So, what can be done to get Tennessee's PAT success rate on par with the rest of the college football world?

"To me, it a routine that you get in," Coiner said. "You block out everything else, and it's muscle memory."

Some kickers pretend they're kicking before 90,000 screaming fans to simulate game-type pressure when they're kicking in practice. Then, when they're kicking before 90,000 screaming fans, they pretend they're kicking in practice to block out the pressure. Coiner especially likes the second half of this equation.

"You're not in Georgia or at Neyland Stadium in front of all of those people; you're here (practice field)," he said. "You practice until it's repetitive. But what happens is, sometimes we get in front of people and our technique changes.

"Is that mental? Is that lack of discipline? I don't know. All I know is that, whatever it takes to maintain consistency, we have to make extra points."

Whereas Palardy and Brodus get the blame for the four missed PATs, Coiner shouldered much of the blame for Saturday's blocked punt.

"It was a matchup deal as much as anything," he said. "I've got to do a better job of coaching technique on the edge (of the formation). It was really a one-on-one deal and he (Vol blocker Byron Moore) was sort of out-sized (by Georgia's Mark Deas)."

Deas started outside to get Moore off balance, then cut inside him with what Coiner called "a traditional move." Once he was inside Moore, Deas was able to block Matt Darr's punt with relative ease.

"It's really not anything about scheme," Coiner said. "It's about (the opponent) saying, 'We're going to try and get this one guy (mismatched against a bigger defender).'"

Again, Coiner placed much of the blame on himself.

"They (Georgia coaches) probably saw some things on our tape that I should've seen," the Vol aide said. "I should've worked it a little more, so it's as much my fault as anyone's."

Georgia recovered the blocked punt at Tennessee's 46-yard line and scored a touchdown four plays later to go up 43-30 with 6:32 left in the third quarter.

"It's one of the most sickening feelings in football if you're a special-teams coach to see that because we work so hard on it," Coiner said. "But we'll get better. We'll learn from it. We'll get it fixed."

Michael Palardy


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