UT trying to find ideal solution for Michael Palardy, Matt Darr

Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy (1) watches as his kick goes wide during the second half of their 41-10 loss against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

Photo by Michael Patrick

Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy (1) watches as his kick goes wide during the second half of their 41-10 loss against Alabama Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010 in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.

In an ideal scenario for Tennessee this season, Michael Palardy would be handling kickoffs and field goals while redshirt freshman Matt Darr would be the starting punter.

A nagging hamstring injury, though, has prevented Darr from getting the most out of his punts this spring, which was displayed in a choppy effort during Saturday’s scrimmage. The injury even prevented him from punting at all at the end of Wednesday’s practice, thrusting Palardy into action.

That’s just fine for Palardy. His version of the ideal situation has him handling all three positions this season.

But the sophomore is fully aware why his coaches might want to pump the brakes on his three-tiered aspirations.

“Fatigue on my body in the long term down the stretch in the season. I think that’s the only reason why,” Palardy said. “Not that I’m not capable of it, just the fact that (coaches don’t) want me to get hurt. Doing all three I have more of a chance of getting hurt than if I didn’t.”

Palardy knows firsthand what a long season can do to a kicker. Through the second half of last year, Palardy, who handled kickoffs throughout his freshman season and filled in on field goals during Daniel Lincoln’s quadriceps injury, was kicking with a pulled groin.

“If you have a groin injury and you’re a kicker,” Palardy said, “that’s the worst injury you can possibly have.”

As a result, Palardy made life difficult for one of the country’s best kickoff return defenses. Palardy averaged 61 yards on his 45 kickoffs, sending three out of bounds for illegal procedure penalties and dropping only one for a touchback.

The Vols, who ranked ninth in the nation by allowing just 18.98 yards on kickoff returns, were one of just eight teams in the country to have one or fewer touchbacks last season.

“Balls were being caught at the 14-, 15-yard line outside the target area,” special teams coordinator Eric Russell said. “That’s a big emphasis for us this spring and in the future.

“I don’t know if we’ve got the guy that’s our kickoff guy. We’ll be out looking for the best possible guy to compete for the job.”

Palardy didn’t have those problems at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he put close to 98 percent of his kicks into the end zone.

Palardy said his groin is mostly healed and that a new workout program under new strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery will have him kicking longer — eventually. To help prevent reaggravating the injury, Palardy said he has only practiced kickoffs when coach Derek Dooley tells him to.

Palardy got his first opportunity to “let it rip” in Wednesday’s practice. Russell said he’d defer critiquing the performance until he reviewed the film.

“I’ve actually moved my steps back from the ball further so I have more momentum to the ball, brings a lot through my body weight through the ball more,” Palardy said. “I just have more explosiveness and it feels better.”

Though he’s certainly felt better, Darr said he still considers the punting job “his to lose.” Like Palardy, Darr said he’s also benefited from a new training regimen, which has made his 221-pound body more flexible and limber.

“Like a punter,” said Darr, who also throws shot put for the UT track and field team. “It’s really helped me. I’ve been hitting better balls this spring. It’s paying off.”

Darr struggled a bit Saturday, as he averaged 39.3 yards on his four attempts with a long of 47. Palardy, meanwhile, averaged 41 yards on his three punts.

Dooley said Darr didn’t have as polished of a kicking background as Palardy, which has given Darr much more to learn at this stage in his development.

“We’ve got to get him to catch a snap and get his footwork down before we see him on stage,” Dooley said. “He’s ready for the stage, and I’m kind of in the studio with him still.”

Even if Dooley still feels that way by the season opener, he has Palardy, who is more than willing to fill the void.

It just wouldn’t be ideal.

“It’d be a lot less stressful on him and his body if he was kickoffs and field goals and Matt could do punts,” Russell said. “There’s no doubt Michael is talented enough to. It’s if his body withstand the strain of a season.”

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 23

VolBlitz writes:

Well really, is there anywhere to go but up in the special teams catagory?

editrdan#435439 writes:

The writing in this story is lazy, sloppy and unprofessional. Somebody edit this, for goodness sake.
Dan Smith

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

We don't need a punter. We aren't gonna have any 4th down situations, are we?

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Wishing the kickers the best this fall.

About the 98% of Palardy's kickoffs going into or out of the endzone, I'msure we all realize those were kicked from the 40 in high school.

FWIW, I think I'm right on this.........the pros will be kicking off from the 35 this year.

( That is, if they play, haven't kept up with the latest on thigs with them.)

claiborneh writes:

As a past kicker, to say you might get leg fatigue "down the stretch" is silly. Trying to practice three different types of kicks is another debate. You ever watch kickers on the sideline. They kick into the net over and over, or during warm ups pregame and halftime over and over and over. It is not necessary to kick that much to warm up. These are kids we are talking about. You only actually kick just a handful of kicks during a game. On a good game the punter does not even go in. About the most work he might do is stay behind the scrimmage line, or maybe run and get the tee off the field. lol Any good kicking coach will tell you to make fewer quality practice "swings" rather than kick a bunch a sloppy kicks under fatigue. Same as the golf driving range.They are over sensationalizing this. It's not that big of a deal. Just kick the stupid ball.

jack_2222#231746 writes:

The kicking game will be improved just as it was last year. The return game will be as improved next year as the coverage game was last year. CDD knows this is sound fundamentals and a Tennessee tradition.

claiborneh writes:

Dooley said Darr didn’t have as polished of a kicking background as Palardy, which has given Darr much more to learn at this stage in his development.
“We’ve got to get him to catch a snap and get his footwork down before we see him on stage,” Dooley said. “He’s ready for the stage, and I’m kind of in the studio with him still.”
So you get a full scholarship so you can learn to get your footwork down and develop? This is biggest bunch of bull. Many Division I schools don't even have true kicking coaches, they are just assistants that stand over you while they stretch. And this is Dooley just spinning because he has to say something. What exactly are you developing? You either can kick or you can't kick, It is not like a kicker gets better every year. He will probably fill in and get stronger because it is the college years, but it is not like you "develop." You either know how to consistantly kick a spiral or field goal or you should not get the easiest full ride in NCAA sports besides a long snapper.

BillyVol writes:

Most of these answers are bull, we have folks who are washed up, or wannabee's, who are working just like I am, thinking they are smarter than the coaches.

SickEmSmokey writes:

I am not too fond of Palardy ever since he threatened my son on the popular website "Facebook". Guy has it coming for him if he continues to threaten young kids in High School. But I wish the rest of the Vols a great season. GBO!!!

Sick 'Em Smokey!
ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

claiborneh writes:

in response to BillyVol:

Most of these answers are bull, we have folks who are washed up, or wannabee's, who are working just like I am, thinking they are smarter than the coaches.

No time to reply. Gotta get to work.

voloffaith writes:

in response to SickEmSmokey:

I am not too fond of Palardy ever since he threatened my son on the popular website "Facebook". Guy has it coming for him if he continues to threaten young kids in High School. But I wish the rest of the Vols a great season. GBO!!!

Sick 'Em Smokey!
ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

So ewe have a "dog in this fight" so to speak?

Report the Palardy foe to the authorities and off with his head! Sorry pirate movie flashback.....

Groundedvol writes:

in response to VOLstuckINky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

My thoughts exactly top ranked kicker and punter and were not sure what is going on! How was Darr so highly rated if he needs to work on footwork and taking a snap?

trubleoj#657755 writes:

Hopefully whenever they are practicing learning how to kick properly we have someone practicing learning how to catch properly. Those drops last year still make me sick (including the ones we didn't lose possession on). UGA, SC, others? It's a team effort fellas (on the flip side the coverage team was much improved.)

agentorange writes:

our kicking game cost us big games the past two years. be nice if the colquitts would procreate some more.

givehim6 writes:

What is funny is I remember when Darr singed with UT all the excitement because he was one of the best punters in the country. Now CDD sayes he needs work on his footwork? Makes you wonder how bad the other guys are.

EZVOL writes:

in response to Groundedvol:

My thoughts exactly top ranked kicker and punter and were not sure what is going on! How was Darr so highly rated if he needs to work on footwork and taking a snap?

For crying out loud in a hankerchief. Some of you on this thread have no idea what you are talking about. What happened to all the guys that used to post here that had some sense? ALL players have to adjust some to the next level of play. They have to adjust from high school to college level and from college to pros. If they don't adjust, they will be replaced. I just wish we could replace most of you. jiminy cricket!

Futurecoach16 writes:

Many of you forget a certain hero for the Vols by the name of James Wilhoit. He did not know the proper footwork for kicking, yet he still had a good college career. Imagine if he knew then what he knows now. I have never been a kicker, but there are obviously subtleties, like a baseball pitcher's technique, that the average eye can't see. If a coach says the fundamentals need to be worked on, then the fundamentals need to be worked on.

eVOLved writes:

in response to editrdan#435439:

The writing in this story is lazy, sloppy and unprofessional. Somebody edit this, for goodness sake.
Dan Smith

Dan Smith,
STFU! Nobody cares for goodness sakes.

Vol4EVA writes:

Go Big Orange!...I'll hang up and listen to your comments...

claiborneh writes:

in response to EZVOL:

For crying out loud in a hankerchief. Some of you on this thread have no idea what you are talking about. What happened to all the guys that used to post here that had some sense? ALL players have to adjust some to the next level of play. They have to adjust from high school to college level and from college to pros. If they don't adjust, they will be replaced. I just wish we could replace most of you. jiminy cricket!

Sorry EZVOl, but agree with Groundedvol and others.
What exactly does a punter have to adjust to from high school to college. Let me tell you-ZERO. He still stands 13 yards back, he still has the same amount of time to get the kick off, his blocking is probably better, and his snapper is also probably better than in high school. You still do the same drills, same stretches, same try to get a 4 second hang time with 40 yard average, same pooch, corner coffin, directional, or lower drop into the wind. Darr was a highly ranked punter coming out of high school. Normally the best punter ranking goes to the one with the highest distance average, which is not fair because a better punter may not have as high average because he was forced to make shorter punts due to field position. The coaches of local conferences just vote the top kid every time who has the highest average because the truth is nobody gives a flying flip about the punter and so this is good as way to choose as any other. Point is who knows how good Darr is. If he truly was the #1 ranked punter, he does not need any footwork or developing, and definitely Palardy should not be competing.Dooley just has to say something. It was time to write a article about the kickers. What was Dooley supposed to say-"I really don't invest a lot of time worrying about the kickers. We just try to find them highly ranked, and just let the chips fall from there."

STEELMAN4VOLS writes:

in response to claiborneh:

Sorry EZVOl, but agree with Groundedvol and others.
What exactly does a punter have to adjust to from high school to college. Let me tell you-ZERO. He still stands 13 yards back, he still has the same amount of time to get the kick off, his blocking is probably better, and his snapper is also probably better than in high school. You still do the same drills, same stretches, same try to get a 4 second hang time with 40 yard average, same pooch, corner coffin, directional, or lower drop into the wind. Darr was a highly ranked punter coming out of high school. Normally the best punter ranking goes to the one with the highest distance average, which is not fair because a better punter may not have as high average because he was forced to make shorter punts due to field position. The coaches of local conferences just vote the top kid every time who has the highest average because the truth is nobody gives a flying flip about the punter and so this is good as way to choose as any other. Point is who knows how good Darr is. If he truly was the #1 ranked punter, he does not need any footwork or developing, and definitely Palardy should not be competing.Dooley just has to say something. It was time to write a article about the kickers. What was Dooley supposed to say-"I really don't invest a lot of time worrying about the kickers. We just try to find them highly ranked, and just let the chips fall from there."

I had the experience of kicking in high school and college. I would say there is one adjustment that is a definate: the rush on the punts & placekicks. The speed is up quite a few notches. You made good points in your posts though, thanks.

claiborneh writes:

in response to STEELMAN4VOLS:

I had the experience of kicking in high school and college. I would say there is one adjustment that is a definate: the rush on the punts & placekicks. The speed is up quite a few notches. You made good points in your posts though, thanks.

It is true the college game is faster because everyone on the field were the best athletes of high school. The lineman and ends also block faster. However,punt rush speed does not change. For years, coaches have used a time of 2.1 seconds to 2.3 seconds from the center snap to ball contact as a barometer of how quickly a player needs to punt a football to avoid getting it blocked. It may have seemed faster but it is not. Kicking camps in high school, college, and the NFL teach this same standard.However I noticed my college snappers were much quicker efficient snappers. Maybe this is what seemed faster and why but the numbers result the same. Faster rush, but you have longer because ball is in your hands faster. Good point by you also.

bigfogg writes:

Dooley and Russell are both idiots. They told former Vols, Harrington and Davis that they didn't need them last spring and they both left. Harrington was voted All Big Sky and Davis was All Sun Belt. Both with better averages than Cunningham. Not that they should of punted before him, but they had two great punters on campus and just let them go. Dooley wants to either lose or win with players he recruits. Does not want Fulmer's or Kiffin's recruits. Oh he'll play a few but look at the depth chart and that is who is there. Maybe his recruiting budget could be expanded if the big baby wouldn't throw so many headsets. Now the word is Poole is getting screwed over again. Players know who produce during practice. Football is a business to coaches and a game to the players and fans. Vol fans wants wins, not decisions made for business. Dooley done in 2 years for sure, with his mistakes and unprofessional behavior.

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