KNOXVILLE — Michael Palardy has had plenty of time to dwell on his bad afternoon 13 days ago.
A lot went wrong for Tennessee’s kicker that day.
Palardy missed an early field-goal try, had a punt blocked and struggled with inconsistency on his kickoffs in the Volunteers’ 33-23 loss at 12th-ranked Florida, and the sophomore’s goal since then through UT’s open date and preparations for Saturday’s home game against Buffalo has been to build back his confidence.
“I think it’s definitely back to where it should be,” Palardy said. “[It] obviously still needs some work. Everybody does, but I think it’s where it should be. [My performance] disappointed me a lot. It was unacceptable, it shouldn’t happen and it won’t, and that’s what I come out here to do.”
The next step for Palardy, who was ranked as the nation’s top kicker coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2010 by Scout.com, is simply getting to Saturday’s game.
“He’s kind of been up and down here a little bit in the bye week as well,” special teams coordinator Eric Russell said. “[He] didn’t come strike the ball real well on Monday during field goal and stroked it real good on kickoff [Tuesday]. The thing we need to do is get back out there in the game environment with something on the line again and see.”
With redshirt freshman Matt Darr taking over the Vols’ full-time punting duties, Palardy can turn his focus more toward kickoffs and field goals. Whichever kicking jobs he has, though, the left-footer must have a short memory.
The previous two games seem to indicate Palardy has that. After missing a 43-yard field-goal try against Cincinnati, Palardy hit a 37-yarder later in the game. On UT’s first drive against the Gators, Palardy’s 37-yard attempt sailed wide left, but he made a 20-yard chip shot in the second half.
“The worst thing for a kicker to do on a kickoff is kick the ball out of bounds, or on a field goal, miss a field goal, something that you should make,” he said. “But you’ve just got to forget about it. That’s pretty much the easy thing to do — just forget about it and go on to the next one.”
That ability to move forward mentally might be more important for a kicker than for any other position player. Any kicker with a big leg and a natural ability could struggle if his mind’s not right.
“I think his techniques are fine,” Russell said. “Now, obviously you’ve got to be a confident kid, and Mike, on the outside, shows it. I don’t know that he’s been affected mentally on this stuff. Maybe in the back of his mind, but he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve and things like that.
“But the mental part of it’s huge. You can’t run out there in this place or a place like Florida without the confidence or you’ll crumble.”
Palardy said he doesn’t have a special routine of forgetting his poor kicks other than immediately looking forward to taking advantage of his next opportunity. He will have plenty of opportunities when the Vols will need him to make a big field goal or deliver on a key kickoff.
“We need him to put the ball through the pipes, and we need him to kick off good," Russell said. “It’s imperative to his job that he does that. He’s got to figure it out.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...