SAN ANTONIO - The groans from Knoxville could almost be heard in Texas on Saturday when kicker Michael Palardy had two kicks blocked during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
The first miscue from the Tennessee commitment came on his initial field goal attempt for the East and was returned 77 yards for a touchdown by the West.
The second came on an extra point that was blocked then returned 99 yards for a two-point conversion.
Palardy, considered by maning recruiting services as the top kicker in the nation, faced deep penetration on both blocks.
"The defensive line on the West (Team); they're big boys," the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said. "They're bound to blow that hole up sooner or later. They did and they came through.
Palardy said he didn't notice protection problems in practice last week and thought his kick trajectory on the both blocks was good.
"I'm not upset because I know I did everything I was supposed to do," Palardy said. "If I could block for me and do everything, I would. But I can't."
The special teams struggles looked familiar. The Vols had four field goal attempts blocked this season.
Palardy, whose one deep kickoff went 65 yards, said he was pleased to help the East recover two onside kicks and was confident he handled the placekicking well in a new environment for a high school kicker.
"They were perfect kicks each time; I made sure," he said. "We were playing on NFL goalposts. It's a lot smaller, so my form has to be perfect. They (West defensive linemen) got in there faster than I expected them to. It happens."
Even after what many would consider a frustrating game, Palardy was flashing a smile.
"It's not frustrating; It's fun," he said. "Being a kicker, you've got to go out there and have fun. I'm honored to go out there and play with these guys. Great athletes. Fun to watch. Unfortunately it didn't go exactly how I hoped."
Kyle’s Conundrum: Receiver Kyle Prater was visibly bothered by Pete Carroll’s possible departure from Southern California to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks following Saturday’s all-star game.
“I’m disappointed, highly, highly disappointed,” he said. “I don’t even want to talk about it right now. I just want to talk to my family about it.”
Prater was the leading receiver in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with three catches for 32 yards. Prater, however, did drop a pass, which was thrown slightly behind him as he was running wide open.
USC’s loss won’t likely benefit the Vols, who recruited Prater and were thought to be in good shape before he committed to be a Trojan.
“No, not at all,” Prater said when asked if the Vols were close to USC before he declared.
Prater said he was considering Illinois, Notre Dame and Oklahoma before committing to USC.
The 6-5, 205-pound receiver, who many believe is the best receiver prospect in the country, originally planned to enroll at USC this week and planned to travel to Los Angeles on Sunday. Now, the standout from Proviso High School in Hillside, Ill., will return home to weigh his options.
“I’ve got little time,” he said. “That’s why it’s so hard.”
Prater said he heard from a USC recruiter that seemed as shocked by Carroll’s possible departure as the prospects he was calling.
“That’s heartbreaking,” he said. “That’s messing up a lot of recruiting. There are a lot of players down here that are feeling the same way.”
Prater said he’s heard from a couple of unspecified schools.
Urban Renewal: Safety Matt Elam from Dwyer High in West Palm Beach, Fla., committed to Florida - again - on Saturday.
The 5-11, 205-pounder was originally committed to the Gators, but later picked Florida State following reports that Florida coach Urban Meyer was resigning because of health conditions.
Meyer has now said he'll just take a leave of absence. Elam said he believes Meyer will return. That's why he's committed to the Gators - again.
"Coach Meyer, I've just got faith in him," Elam said. "I think he's going to be back next year."
There's no looking back for Elam, who will enroll on Monday.
Markeith's Man: UT commitment Markeith Ambles admitted that being a lesser rated receiver - to Prater - was motivation.
"I always come out to compete, no matter who it is," the 6-3, 190-pounder from Henry County High in McDonough, Ga. said. "That's just in me. I compete with whoever I'm playing against."
Asked if he felt he showed up on Saturday, Ambles, with a smile, said, "I show up whenever I play."