KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee kicker Michael Palardy appeared to have turned the corner in the Volunteers' loss at Alabama last October.
He made field goals of 40 and 52 yards, the second a career long.
He averaged 40 yards on five punts.
He even threw a first-down pass on a fake punt.
Given how his season ended, though, that night is a distant memory, and Palardy's spring-practice aspirations have been to grow from it.
"I wanted to be light years ahead of where I was at the end of last year," the junior said earlier during UT's spring practice. "Last year was not a good year whatsoever on my part. I definitely need to build a lot more consistency and a lot more confidence.
"I'm light years ahead of that. Last year I'd come out on the field, and I'd be worried and scared to make a mistake instead of just going after it and doing what I normally do. I'm light years [ahead] of where I was."
Much like all the Vols, Palardy ended 2011 somewhere near rock bottom. In five games after his big performance against the eventual national champions, the Florida native missed two of his three field goals, averaged 30.6 yards on five punts and missed one game due to injury. Though he was rated as the nation's No. 2 kicker out of high school by Rivals.com, Palardy has largely disappointed, making 14 of his 21 field-goal attempts and struggling on kickoffs with six touchbacks and five kickoffs out of bounds in his career.
Though his scrimmage stats might not reflect it, Palardy has had a solid spring. He's made two of his four field goals in UT's two scrimmages from 37 and 42 yards. Safety Brian Randolph blocked a 32-yarder in the first scrimmage, and Palardy pushed one from 34 wide left on Saturday.
Though Palardy also averaged more than 41 yards on five scrimmage punts, Vols coach Derek Dooley said the kicker's biggest gains this spring have been kicking off.
"He missed one, [but] guys, he's making a lot progress," Dooley said Saturday. "He's been money on kickoffs. He looks like a different guy out there, and it wasn't just moving him up five [yards].
"He's got a real confident approach, [and] he adjusted some things. The biggest thing we're ironing out on our field goals is that we've got a new snapper and a new holder, so there are a lot of nuances that can affect a kick. But he's having a good spring."
If Palardy's inconsistency continues next fall, the Vols could have other kicking options. Derrick Brodus, the walk-on who's game-time arrival from his couch saved UT against Middle Tennessee State when Palardy was hurt and Chip Rhome went down in warmups, has hit on all four field goals this spring. Signee George Bullock from nearby West High School in Knoxville will be on campus.
After rotating punters last season, both Palardy and third-year sophomore Matt Darr continue to work there. Dooley said Saturday that Darr has struggled this spring, and Palardy said he'll do whatever's needed. He was the Vols' directional punter last season.
"I'm still putting a lot of emphasis on everything to make myself more versatile," he said. "If they need me to punt one game and not kick, I'll punt one game. If they need me to kick and not punt, I'll do whatever I can.
"I'm letting everyone know that I can do that and that I am there for that option."
After how 2011 ended, Palardy's lone option is moving forward.
"Some of it was my health, but a lot of it was being young and just not having the confidence to trust in myself from my ability," he said. "I know the type of ability that I have, that I can come out here and perform the way everyone wants me to and the way that my coaches and my teammates want me to. I've got to have that confidence in myself."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.