KNOXVILLE — Michael Palardy already has reaped some small benefits from the summer structure and the decreased workload.
The University of Tennessee sophomore placekicker now hopes those two changes will bring even bigger rewards down the road.
The Volunteers' coaches but back on the number of balls Palardy kicked after a lingering groin injury affected his production last season, and the decision to not have him do kickoffs the day before translated into a perfect scrimmage performance on Saturday, when Palardy made all three field goals including a 52-yarder.
"It's good to know that you're 100 percent," he said after practice Tuesday morning. "It's definitely brought a lot of confidence to my game, which is what I need and didn't have last year."
Palardy stepped onto UT's campus last August out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as the nation's No. 2 kicker according to Rivals last year. He made five of his seven field goals as a freshman, but he averaged just 39 yards on four punts and recorded zero touchbacks in 45 kickoffs.
The struggles were mostly due to an increased workload that caused his injury.
"I know last year that was definitely my downfall, with the combination of working out in the weight room and doing heavy squats and heavy lifting with my legs and then coming out here and trying to kick a lot of balls," he said. "It was pretty difficult to overcome my groin injury last year. Kickoffs were really what hurt me last year with my groin. It didn't allow me to get a lot of power on it.
"Coming in as a freshman, they expected me to do a lot of stuff and I was kind of overwhelmed with everything. I came in and didn't really worry about how many balls I kicked."
A change in routine had to happen, so coach Derek Dooley and special teams coordinator Eric Russell came up with a plan to lower the risk for a repeat of last season.
"We tried to provide him more structure for the summer," Russell said Sunday. "Last summer Mike wasn't with us, so I don't have any idea really what his workload was. We just knew where we're at right now, and with our depth at the specialist position, we need to make sure we can keep him healthy and avoid some of the things that happened to him last year.
"One, a little more structure to how he worked throughout the summer, and then trying to pay a little more attention and actually having more defined parameters of how he's going to handle his day, then him doing a good job of communicating with us as well if he's feeling tired or if he's not feeling it to go ahead and back off a little bit."
Essentially the structure change was a decrease in workload. The Vols would normally workout four times a week during the summer, but the specialists cut that down to two and focused on upper-body weightlifting. Palardy said the number of ball's he kicked on a daily basis this summer is just slightly less than last year, but the overall workload is more manageable.
The change already has helped Palardy, who made just one of three field goals in the Vols' first scrimmage. He said he's added between and five and seven yards on his kickoffs. Having taken one step toward remaining healthy, the next step is consistency.
"It's good to see Mike healthy and getting more confident as we go along through camp," Russell said. "It was very encouraging to go three-for-three [Saturday]."
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 ...