Kicking is not clicking

I was a little concerned when I showed up for Tennessee's Tuesday football practice and realized I'd parked my car directly behind the goal post the Vols use for field-goal attempts.

Then I saw the kickers attempt a few ... and realized my car might be in the safest place on campus. Pardon the pun, but UT's kickers were not exactly auto-matic.

"It wasn't very consistent," head coach Lane Kiffin said.

In one ill-fated segment, two-year starter Daniel Lincoln severely hooked a mid-range field-goal try probably 10 yards to the left of the left upright. Backup Chad Cunningham followed and missed by nearly the same amount on the same side.

Given that Tennessee lacks the personnel to blow most opponents off the field, the 2009 Vols project to play a lot of close games ... games that may well be decided by a made or missed field goal. Thus, Lincoln's struggles are a bit of a concern.

The Ocala, Fla., native was tabbed first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America as a freshman in 2007 after hitting 21 of 29 field-goal tries. He also set a UT record that season by nailing his first eight career attempts.

Since that blazing start, however, Lincoln has cooled considerably. He made just 13 of his final 21 kicks in 2007, then made just 10 of 18 tries in 2008. That's a combined 23 of 39, a mere 58.9 percent success rate.

Counting one long-range miss by backup kicker Britton Colquitt, the 2008 Vols were 10 of 19 on field goal tries. Their 52.6 percent success rate ranked dead last among the 12 SEC teams.

Certainly, one poor showing in spring practice on the heels of a 10-day layoff doesn't guarantee Tennessee's field-goal kicking is facing another tough year. But it did concern the Vols' head coach, who canceled a kicking segment scheduled near the end of the workout.

"We had two more (kicks) that we didn't even get in," Kiffin said. "It was disappointing. The field-goal team kind of kept up with the offense today and had a poor day.

"We'll get another chance when we get back out here Thursday."

For what it's worth, I haven't decided if I'll park directly behind the goal post again or not.


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