THE DIRECTOR: First-year Vols assistant Charlie Coiner was assistant special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills for four years from 2006-09 and was also the Chicago Bears' special teams assistant from 2001-03. Prior to that, he coached special teams at LSU, Texas Southern and Vanderbilt.
THE CAST: 5-11, 176 Jr. PK/P Michael Palardy; 5-11, 171 PK/P So. Derrick Brodus; 6-1, 221 So. P Matt Darr.
This is perhaps the most disappointing group of specialists the Vols have had in years. While Palardy and Darr certainly have the capability and the credentials to be special, they've been inconsistent at times and downright poor at others. It's now or never for the tandem or Bullock may be competing for the job when he comes in.
As far as returners go, Devrin Young and Da'Rick Rogers return to take over those duties again. But there are many people coming in who could step back there and fill the KR/PR duties like Alton "Pig" Howard, Tino Thomas, Quenshaun Watson. Young and Rogers can be electrifying back there, but they've got to really ramp it up because the Vols, it seems, finally have some options.
Coming soon: Knoxville West PK/P George Bullock.
OFFSEASON BUZZ: You never hear anything about kickers in the offseason, do you? I just want some consistency. Is that asking too much?
THE PLOT THICKENS [THREE SPRING STORYLINES]:
- Are Palardy and Darr Wasted Scholarships Or Late Bloomers? I'm not trying to be harsh here, I promise. There were times like last year's Alabama game where it looked like Palardy had turned the corner. Then, he'd do something like kick a 35-yard low liner that missed 20 yards left ... or he'd pull a quad in warm-ups. Then there was Darr who'd boom a 50-yarder one minute and shank an 18-yarder the next. These guys have all-world legs, but they've simply not been able to put it together. Meanwhile, UT fans close their eyes and dream of a time when a 35-yard field goal and 40-yard punt were routine.
- Can Coiner Keep UT's Coverage Teams Salty? Sure, there were moments like the Arkansas punt return for a touchdown last year that were forgettable, but for the most part, Eric Russell (who departed for Washington State) really upgraded the Vols' coverage units. Special teams stars like Rod Wilks, Dontavis Sapp and Raiques Crump really laid it out there for UT, and the Vols excelled. It hasn't always been the case. Hopefully, Coiner can keep it going.
- Will Devrin Young Finally Take One To the House? We're all waiting for it. How long's it been since the Vols had one? We all know he's capable. I say yes. It's happening.
CLOSING CREDITS: Bullock is waiting in the wings mere miles from campus. So, if Palardy and Darr haven't felt the heat yet, they should. Derek Dooley is probably at the end of patience's rope, and the Vols really need to get more consistent in the kicking game. Also, it looks like UT has many options for returner. This spring is going to be all about getting acquainted with Coiner and developing kicking consistency.
Missed the other installments? Catch up here.