A healthy Nick Pollard might have been the difference for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football team last season. The kicker is hoping that will be the case this fall.
With Pollard out for the season because of a leg injury, the Mocs had an ineffective kicking game that played a part in several losses - most notably against Appalachian State and Jacksonville State.
Had UTC won either of those, it likely would have made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Instead, the Mocs went 6-5 and came up a win short of a probable at-large bid.
Pollard was back healthy during spring practice and kicked as well as ever, in part, he said, because he's now stronger than ever.
"I'd say overall my whole body is stronger," the redshirt freshman said. "With the core and the leg strengthened, it just feels even better kicking. It feels easier."
Kickers, he said, aren't exactly known for being weight-room junkies. The work he had to put in to get healthy and get stronger was a "reality check" - one that he believes will make a big difference.
Another change, he said, was his approach to warming up before practice and games.
"I'm more cautious during warmup, taking it easy and gradually building up from there," he said. "Obviously stretching is always key, no matter what position. The biggest part is warming up, taking your time - there's no rush."
Jeff Veres, a wide receiver who walked on at UTC as a kicker, did most of the kicking last season. He went 3-for-9 on field goals and punter Mike Hammons made his only attempt. The Mocs also missed six extra points last season, including two in their 42-41 loss to Appalachian State.
"It was frustrating at first," he said of being injured, "then I tried to figure out what my role was and help Jeff out as much as I could."
Pollard said his goals for next season are to make "100 percent" of his kicks from inside 40 yards and at least 80 percent from 40 yards and beyond. If he does that, the Mocs' chances of making the postseason should rise like one of Pollard's booming kicks.