Junior kicker Michael Palardy nailed four field goals beyond 30 yards in Tennessee's first preseason scrimmage. That's noteworthy since it matched his total for the entire 2011 season.
After making just 4 of 9 tries from 30 yards or more last fall, Palardy made 4 of 4 in the first preseason dress rehearsal of 2012 — connecting from 37, 35, 31 and 48 yards. The obvious question: Has he recaptured the form that made him America's No. 1 kicking prospect in 2009 or is he just another of those guys who "stroke it in practice, choke it in games?"
That remains to be seen. Still, Tennessee's kicking coach is encouraged.
"I'm happy with him," Charlie Coiner said this week. "Michael has had a good camp. The way he approaches things is helping. He's growing up. It was a scrimmage-type situation when he did it, so we're excited about it. Now we hope that transfers over into the game."
Palardy has frustrated Vol fans since his eagerly anticipated arrival on campus three years ago. He went 5 of 7 on field goals as a freshman in 2010 but was 0 for 2 beyond 39 yards. Last fall he nailed a 52-yarder in Game 7 at Alabama, then missed clutch kicks of 47 yards (versus South Carolina) and 46 yards (at Kentucky).
Confidence is critical for a kicker, and Palardy's got a boost at the start of Saturday's scrimmage.
"Yeah, my first field goal," he recalled. "I hit it real well. Right after that I felt confident I was going to walk out on the field and make every one, and that's what happened."
When asked how long that first field goal was, Palardy shrugged.
"I don't know," he said. "I try not to pay attention to distances. I just try to go out there and hit it as well as I can."
Palardy has had good scrimmages before, only to underachieve when the bright lights came on. He believes those days are over, noting: "I feel very confident, very strong and I'm ready to go."
Perhaps he can build on Scrimmage No. 1 with another strong showing Friday in Scrimmage No. 2.
"I'm just being focused, taking one kick at a time and being very consistent," Palardy said. "This scrimmage was a big step in doing that. I think my consistency is going to be big these next couple of scrimmages to kind of get the ball rolling for the season."
|Charlie Coiner took over leading the Tennessee special teams unit over the winter.|
Palardy's 4-for-4 performance is a little more impressive when you consider that Tennessee was alternating its snappers. Sam Giampapa is a 6-foot-0, 239-pound Jackson native who transferred in from Michigan State following his freshman season. J. R. Carr is a 5-foot-10, 224-pound senior from Lomita, Calif. Both are snapping so well lately that they're essentially tied for the first-team job.
"I think the snapper situation calming down no question helped Mike (Palardy)," Coiner said. "It's got to. When you have confidence in your snapper and your holder that goes a long way. We talk a lot to Mike and George (Bullock) about 'Who do you feel most comfortable with as your holder? Which snapper?' And obviously we chart everything."
The battle between Giampapa and Carr is so close that it may continue right up to Game 1.
"It's a tight competition," Coiner said. "In fact, we're rolling the depth chart every day. One goes with the ones one day and the other goes with the ones the next day. They're getting plenty of work. They're both good snappers. One (Giampapa at Michigan State) has some game experience and one (Carr) has been here. They both bring unique advantages to the table. We feel like we've got three really good snappers. Nick Sharick (6-foot-4, 228-pound freshman from Columbus, Ohio) is a really good young snapper, too."
With Palardy booting the ball well and several deep snappers proving capable, Tennessee's kicking game appears to be in capable hands.
"We're pretty happy with where we are," Coiner said. "We've got competition at snapper and we think Mike is doing a good job at kicker. That's where it is right now."