November 26, 2002
Ding Dong! The Old Carson’s Dead
by Keith Weiland
Good things come to those who wait.
And wait some more.
Carson Palmer and USC fans have waited four years for a season like this one. After starting with some success as a true freshman in 1998, Palmer hasn’t exactly followed the yellow brick road to the NFL.
Like a twister, Palmer’s broken collarbone in 1999 swirled away his sophomore season, and after taking a redshirt, he returned in 2000 to share a school record of 18 interceptions. Plagued by inconsistency and poor decision-making, Palmer’s wizard potential was making him look more like the little man behind the curtain.
Enter new head coach Pete Carroll and former Brigham Young offensive guru Norm Chow in 2001. They brought with them second life for Palmer and his teammates, but the players needed some time to feel comfortable in the new system. Nevertheless, flashes from a once bright star began to re-emerge and the Emerald City was starting to come into focus once again.
Yet Palmer still entered the 2002 season with as many touchdowns thrown as he had interceptions for his collegiate career. Physically, Palmer (6’5″ 225) had the size, speed, strength, and accuracy to be an NFL passer, but something kept him from making good decisions when it mattered most.
Perhaps it might have been courage, heart and a brain?
Showing his maturity since he first joined the Trojans, Palmer took this past offseason more seriously. He lifted more weights. He watched more film.
And the results have been astounding. Palmer’s ruby red feet have been steadier in the pocket, and he’s seeing the field better than he ever has before. He caught fire in October, and in his last seven games, Palmer has thrown 23 touchdowns to go against just 5 interceptions.
Palmer finally put it all together against Cal, rallying the Trojans from a 21-3 second quarter deficit to lead the Trojans to a 30-28 victory. Palmer then followed up with impressive performances against Washington, Oregon, and others. On Saturday, he tossed for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns against UCLA to give himself an outside shot at an invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club. Most importantly, Palmer did not have any interceptions against the Bruins, and he maintained his 60+% completion percentage on the season.
Once a first round prospect, many weren’t sure that Palmer would even be selected on the draft’s first day. Now, Palmer may not last beyond the first ten picks.
Somewhere over the rainbow Palmer found the record book, too. On Saturday, he passed Stanford’s Steve Stenstrom to become the passing yardage leader in Pac-10 history. When USC hosts Notre Dame this weekend, Palmer will have a good chance to pass UCLA’s Cade McNown as the conference’s all-time leader in offense. Don’t forget that the conference itself has quite an impressive resume when it comes to matriculating NFL talent at the quarterback position. The Pac-10 has produced the likes of John Elway, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman and former Houston Oiler Warren Moon, just to name a few.
So what does this Trojan’s breakthrough have to do with us back home in Kansas? Uh I mean, Texas? Well, with David Carr already under center, it doesn’t look like much on the surface, but with a probable top-3 pick in the 2003 draft, the Texans would love for other NFL teams to clamor for better draft positioning to take a QB like Palmer or Marshall’s Byron Leftwich. And at this time a year ago, few ever dreamed that two of the first three picks in the 2002 draft would have been quarterbacks. Might it happen two years in a row?
Remember, too, that Good Witch Charley Casserly poured water all over the 2003 prospects when he noted that none have consistently proven themselves to be top-5 quality. Seeing potential franchise quarterbacks like Palmer realize their potential can only increase the demand for the Texans’ lofty draft position.
Tune In, Drop Out Head out to the wild west this weekend there’s golden prospects in them thar hills!
Arizona State @ Arizona, 2pm, Fox Sports Southwest – The Sun Devils have a demon at defensive end named Terrell Suggs. Suggs is 6’4″, 250 pounds, and wicked fast for an end. There is some concern that Suggs may be a bit small as a 4-3 end, but in the Texans’ 3-4 scheme, he’s perfect for an outside linebacker. Suggs has a commanding Division 1-A lead in sacks (20.0) and tackles for a loss (26.5). On offense, Arizona State also has a tight end named Mike Pinkard (6’5″ 260) that warrants some mid-round consideration.
Notre Dame @ USC, 7pm, ABC – Well, of course you have to watch Palmer, but he’s not the only reason to tune into this game. The Trojans’ Troy Polamalu will be the best strong safety on the board next April. The Domers have a couple guys on the offensive line worth watching, including tackle Jordan Black (6’5″ 300) and center Jeff Faine (6’2″ 295). Keep a keen eye on Faine, especially. He has first round potential, something almost unheard of for a center.
Keith Weiland never gave up on Carson Palmer. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of his ass.