Dead Ball Foul

What do former Vol players do? Apparently they become bloggers… with information that might be useful to the present Tennessee coaching staff.

James Wilhoit, former outstanding placekicker with the Vols from 20o3 to 2006 (famous for nailing the game-winner from 50 yards against Florida in 2004), is now working with high school and college kickers throughout the state of Tennessee as a kicking coach (see his professional website James Wilhoit Kicking Coach). He has a YouTube channel. And, he maintains a blog titled James Wilhoit Kicking Coach: Helping Kicking Specialists Reach Their True Potential.

A tip of the cap to Brandon Price’s post over at 3rd Saturday in Blogtober who made a casual reference to Wilhoit’s blog at the end of his recent post, because without it, I wouldn’t have discovered the following information.

Wilhoit indicates in his recent article titled On A Specialist’s Path Kicking Footballs that Nike balls are the kickers’ choice, especially the Aero Elite Collegiate. Nine of the 12 SEC schools use this ball. That in itself brings up an interesting question: Did you know that each school chooses which ball they use?

But I won’t stop there. Wilhoit goes on to say that the Wilson GST is “by far the worst kicking ball on the market.” It is Wilhoit’s understanding that Tennessee is the only SEC school to use the Wilson GST – Georgia and South Carolina also use Wilson balls, but a model different from the GST.

This all leads to Wilhoit speculating about Michael Palardy, Tennessee’s newest placekicking recruit, who apparently did not impress during August practices and scrimmages.

“In my opinion the problem is not with the kicker but with the football. When I saw Palardy’s highlight tape I saw an extremely talented kicker but I saw him kicking a very old and broken in football. If I was a special teams coach in college I would always take that into account when evaluating a specialist. I think that someone at Tennessee should take a hard look at using the Wilson GST football and make sure that other teams aren’t gaining a competitive advantage.” — James Wilhoit

Wilhoit goes on to tell us that the NFL has one ball for all its games, and believes that it would be best if the NCAA would adopt one football for all college games to even the playing field. That sounds like an uphill climb because I would assume that schools have some pretty lucrative contracts with manufacturers of athletic equipment, including footballs.

And that’s where this story gets more interesting.

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Wilhoit posted a follow-up article on Sunday titled On a Specialist’s path – Discovering Fact. He was interviewed on the Monday before the UT Martin game by Dave Hooker and Terry Fair on 100.3 WNOX in Knoxville. Wilhoit proceeded to outline his argument that I have described above. Apparently, Fair challenged Wilhoit to demonstrate his theory, and organized the session at the UT practice facility this past Friday.

To make a long story short, after a university official had granted permission for the kicking session (after initially telling them they had to leave), Wilhoit was about 20 minutes into his warmup “and just about to really test out the balls when that same university official (said he) had to quit kicking. It was certainly interesting timing as (Wilhoit) had just unwrapped the brand new Nike and Wilson footballs…”

Wilhoit and company eventually found a local high school to host the session (watch it here or below).

Not a scientific, controlled test by a long shot (see for yourself in the video), but interesting and thought-provoking nonetheless.

Wilhoit wrote that he found the Nike ball to have a larger sweet spot than the Wilson – essentially the Nike has a larger surface to kick. He also speculated what all this might have meant in Tennessee’s 12-10 loss at Alabama last season – Daniel Lincoln was kicking a Wilson and Leigh Tiffin was using a Nike.

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The interesting subtext to this whole thing is of course money and contracts between UT and Wilson…

Money and last year’s Alabama game notwithstanding, I wonder if Derek Dooley and his coaches are aware of what Wilhoit apparently knows first hand about footballs and the difficulties some balls provide to kickers. And, if they don’t have this knowledge, I wonder what they would do if they did.

Brandon Price’s post speculated that the ball might have something to do with Tennessee’s kickoffs being so short. I’m starting to wonder, too, if Palardy, as he sits on the bench, is unaware that he’s kicking a relatively dead ball. He needs to know, as does anyone else who doesn’t.

Is the University of Tennessee using a football that is putting them at a competitive disadvantage as Wilhoit suggests? If not, shouldn’t there at the very least be one standardized football in College Football?

“If the NCAA wants to talk about fair play then they certainly should use one football for both teams.” – James Wilhoit

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Before I say goodbye for the day, wouldn’t it be wonderful to relive Wilhoit’s kick  against Florida one more time? Enjoy…

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4 responses to “Dead Ball Foul”

  1. tk says :

    fred……i have a comment on the choice of footballs and will get back to you on dooleys comments

  2. tk says :

    OK FRED IM BACK. INTERESTING POST YOU HAVE AND ON LAST WEEKS “VOL CALLS” RADIO SHOW THIS VERY SUBJECT WAS BROUGHT UP BY A CALLER TO COACH DOOLEY. HIS ANSWER IN A NUTSHELL WAS THAT SOMETIMES A KICKER AND A QB DONT PREFER THE SAME BALL AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION ON WHICH TO USE. IN WEIGHING THE OPTIONS HE SAID SOMETIMES ITS MORE BENEFICIAL TO LOSE 3 OR 4 YARDS ON A PUNT THAN TO HAVE A BALL THE QB IS NOT COMFORTABLE WITH…….BUT THAT HE IS AWARE OF THE SITUATION AND THEY DO CONTINUE TO LOOK INTO IT. THOUGHT IT STRANGE THAT YOU BROUGHT THIS SUBJECT UP LESS THAN A WEEK AFTER I HEARD THE RADIO SHOW. GO VOLS….DROWN A DUCK IN SEPTEMBER.

  3. norcalvol says :

    Thanks, TK. I wish I had heard last week’s show.
    Makes perfect sense that the Nike ball might not be the QB’s preference.
    Competing interests at play between the kickers and the throwers…
    I hope this issue continues to receive some attention. I tend to agree with Wilhoit in that it makes little sense that the NCAA does not mandate a single ball across the board. But this is just one example of how college football is different from the NFL, and for many of those differences, I side with the college game.

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