Gettin' his kicks

Gettin' his kicks

Practice makes perfect. Unless you practice too much. Then practice makes injured.

Case in point: Tennessee sophomore place-kicker Michael Palardy. He attempted so many practice kicks last August that he suffered a groin pull that hampered him throughout the 2010 football season.

"Coming in as a freshman, they (coaches) expected me to do a lot of stuff, so I was kind of overwhelmed with everything," he recalled following Tuesday's morning practice. "I came in and didn't really worry about how many balls I was kicking."

Having learned a valuable lesson, Palardy is kicking less and enjoying it more this August. He enjoyed the heck out of himself in Saturday night's scrimmage, going 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts with a long of 52 yards.

"This year I definitely decreased the number of balls I kicked in the offseason," he said. "I know last season that was definitely my downfall - the combination of working out in the weight room, doing heavy squats and heavy lifting with my legs, then coming out here (practice field) and trying to kick a ton of balls."

Palardy was something of a YouTube sensation in high school due to videos of his booming kickoffs. He fell far short of expectations as a Vol freshman last fall, however. Although he made five of seven field-goal attempts, he missed both tries beyond 40 yards and was largely underwhelming on kickoffs.

Now that the groin is 100 percent healthy, Palardy is again exhibiting the power he showed while earning recognition as America's No. 1 kicking prospect as a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School of Coral Springs, Fla., in 2009.

"I've added another five, six, seven yards to my kickoffs," he said. "That puts me from the 2-yard line to two or three yards deep (in the end zone) consistently, so that's good."

Palardy's performance Saturday night was especially encouraging. Because Tennessee lacks marquee talent, it projects to play a lot of close games this fall that could be decided by a field goal. Thus, the fact he was 3 for 3 with a 52-yarder was a big deal.

"It's good to know you're 100 percent," he said. "It's a good feeling and it's definitely brought a lot of confidence to my game, which I didn't have last year."

Some coaches figure it's too taxing for one player to handle the placement job, the kickoff job and the punting job. But Palardy, who competed for all three jobs last August, never felt he was overworking his leg.

"I did all three throughout high school, and had no problem with it," he said. "I actually think I kicked more in high school than I did here. I think the combination of kicking and the weight-room stuff is what hurt me."

Palardy injured himself last season on a kickoff. Interestingly enough, that's also the way former Vol punter/kickoff specialist Britton Colquitt strained his groin in 2008. Clearly, kicking off is the most stressful of the leg swings from a physical standpoint.

"Absolutely," Palardy said. "That's building up momentum (on the approach), then stopping on a dime, planting your foot and coming out of your kick. It's not a good combination."

Conversely, punting is the least taxing of the leg motions.

"Punting doesn't put a lot of stress on my leg," Palardy said. "I could punt 30 balls a day and my leg would be all right because it's not a lot of wear and tear on my groin."

Already blessed with a healthy body, Palardy's Saturday scrimmage performance has given him a healthy self-esteem to go with it.

"I feel a lot more confident than I did last year," he said. "For a kicker, that's the biggest thing ... confidence. I can absolutely tell a difference in my kicking since the scrimmage, and so can the coaches."

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