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April 2, 2014

Palardy ignores distractions, shines at pro day; more notes

Kicker specialist Michael Palardy didn't admit that he smiled, but he likely got a little chuckle when he lined up for a 52-yard field at Tennessee's pro day.

The coach running the kicking drill barked at Palardy trying to get in his head. But it was minor compared to the last year when head coach Butch Jones pushed Palardy as he started to kick, threw water on him, barked in his ear and made him kick with the team liked up like a golf gallery on the 18th tee at Augusta National.

The result Wednesday a made kick. A kick the Florida native credited to his former head coach.

"Every distraction helped," Palardy admitted. "When I was kicking field goals today the Saints coach was in my ear saying 'Hey we're at Alabama in front of 100,000 people with 2 seconds left, down 2, 52-yard field goal, what are you going to do? Are you going to miss it?'. And I hit it. It's blocking out all of the distractions.

"The mental side is like night and day for me now. Talk to me two years ago and it would be completely different. The mental side. The mental preparation from the start of last season till now. It's just a big difference. It was a great feeling to go out there and do well in front of all those scouts. It's a really good feeling."

Palardy made 5 of 7 field goal attempts. His 10 punts were for an average of over 50 yards. His kickoffs all touchbacks.

"For me I wanted to show that I have an NFL leg. To show teams that I am versatile and can do all three," said Palardy. "Then I will let them choose what's best for them. I know I'm going in as a punter/kickoff guy, but I showed field goals as well to show that versatility. And to show consistency. In the NFL as a specialist if you're not consistent you're not worth anything."

It's that consistency and versatility that the Florida native is banking on playing into his favor come May and the NFL draft. He's already kicked privately for the Patriots. He kicks next for the Dolphins. Following his work Wednesday several teams met with him in the afternoon. There's an advantage to showing the ability to be able to handle any of the three kicking jobs. But that advantage is pointless if it's not consistent.

"It's huge because if you're a kicker you can come in and have a huge day and people are impressed. If they see a second look and you don't do as well as before then they won't look at you," Palardy said. "That's the beauty of what we do, you have to be consistent.

"I had a good day in Arizona punting and kicking [last month at a specialists' combine]. I felt good. I came here today and had a good day. My off-season training has been great. I've been working on that consistency maintaining that strength to come out here, open some eyes and impress people."

There's no doubt that Palardy left a good impression on Wednesday and there's no question that he was really happy with the way he performed.

"I would say, the consistency in all three is important to me, but to be able to come out in front of NFL teams and NFL scouts and perform the way I am capable of was my main goal," Palardy offered. "To come out here and show that I have the talent and ability and let the chips fall where they may. The consistency yes is what I'm most pleased with, but also just being able to perform well in pressure situations with scouts and coaches.

"I wasn't nervous. I had some adrenaline. I had some anxiety, but that's because this was something I wasn't used to. This was new to me. I think all the things we did last season in terms of putting me in pressure situations prepares me for situations like this when all eyes are on me."


Defensive end Jacques Smith was a very different looking player on Wednesday. Smith weighed in at 258 pounds, some 20 pounds heavier than he was when last season ended. Smith admits he's just looking for a chance and doesn't care if it's defensive end or linebacker. In fact, Smith felt like the biggest thing he had to show Wednesday was the ability to play in space.

"I definitely thought the linebacker drills because you have to be fluid and be able to flip your hips," Smith said of the most important thing he had to show. "You have to have control of your body especially when you are out in space. Receivers in the NFL are a lot different. They are one-hitters. They can take it to the house at any moment. Just look at CP (Cordarrelle Patterson). With receivers like that you have really have fluid hips and not be stiff. Those are the things I wanted to show the scouts today, my quick feet and my athleticism. I think I did a pretty good job with it."


Alex Bullard thought he could have run a better 40, and he figures to weigh closer to 315-320 than the 326 he weighed in at on Wednesday, but the former Tennessee offensive lineman couldn't have asked for a better effort on the bench press during the Vols' pro day. A Nashville native, Bullard repped 31 times on the bench press --- a new personal record.

"I feel like I showed that I can move; I think in position drills I showed I can move and play a little," Bullard said. "I wanted to come out, have fun and let the chips fall where they may."

Bullard said he's spoken with the Lions, Patriots, Seahawks and Titans, among others. He has spent time training in Houston, Nashville and Knoxville but Bullard said he'll remain between Nashville and Knoxville until the NFL Draft in early May.

Former Vols center James Stone echoed Bullard's sentiments about his pro day workout. Stone has talked with the Titans and worked out for the Lions; he acknowledged he gets some questions about being a left-handed center. But Stone, also a Nashville native, said he uses the questions as a positive.

"I have had a lot of (questions). Everyone has a different opinion about it. Some coaches have had experience with it before and some who have never seen I before. It's interesting because it's kind of a conversation starter in meeting with coaches," Stone said.

Stone attended the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis and also showcased some versatility when he played both guard and center in a post-season all-star game.

"I wanted to show I had the ability to move and play offensive line in the NFL as both a center and a guard," Stone said. "I wanted to show that I had the ability to move and play both positions. …

"It's stressful because there's so much anticipation and uncertainty. But at the same time it's exciting. Very few get to go through this and have the opportunity to do it so it's exciting as well."


Dan McCullers hasn't been this light - 348 pounds - since high school. He hasn't been this healthy - "100 percent," he said Wednesday - in a long time.

McCullers measured 6-foot-6, 348 pounds during Tennessee's Pro Day. He ran a 5.32 40-yard dash, a 7.75 in the 3-cone drill and a 5.14 in the 20-yard shuttle.

He played last year between 358 and 360 pounds, he said. The first day he stepped on campus he weighed 381 pounds. Before the NFL season kicks off in September, he plans on being 335.

"I can tell a lot," McCullers said of playing with the dropped weight. "Much quicker, you don't get as tired as fast. That's key at the next level, just going extra plays. So I'm continuing to work on that."

McCullers said he's hearing largely from NFL teams that use a 3-4 defensive scheme, and the biggest criticism he hears is his lack of leverage.

Scouts like his physicality, his hands and his footwork. But playing lower will be the key to success at the next level.

McCullers summed up his two years with the Vols - playing two different positions under two different coaching staffs - as a "pretty good career," but said he's yet to tap his full football potential.

"I feel like I still have potential in me," he said Wednesday. "I know I'm still raw talent, technique-wise. So I'm going to continue to work. I've got a lot more to improve on, so I'll just keep working."

McCullers had 27 bench reps, an 8-foot, 3-inch broad jump and a vertical jump of 23 inches. All those numbers products of being fully healthy for the first time in a long time.

At the end of the 2013 season he had a laundry list of ailments.

"I had a shoulder problem, ankle - I messed up my ankle (in the) Vanderbilt game - and I had a little hamstring problem," McCullers said. "So I was kind of banged up. I fought through the end of the season."

Tennessee NEWS


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