|USC's Carson Palmer threw for 2,914 yards and 16
touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
USC's Palmer thinks new offense is a perfect fit
June 4, 2001
The Sporting News
New coach. New offense. New Carson Palmer? USC
fans hope so. Palmer, who was picked off 18 times last year in Paul Hackett's
West Coast offense, is hoping for a breakthrough junior season under Pete
Carroll and new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. The 6-5 Palmer has had
his moments in two years as the Trojans' starter, racking up 5,159 passing
yards, the most for a USC quarterback at the end of his sophomore year.
In the latest installment of One-on-One, Palmer talks about expectations,
country music and Dr. Seuss.
TSN: Give us your first impressions of your
new coach, Pete Carroll.
CP: Well, first off, there was a lot of speculation about him.
The press was throwing a lot of negative stuff out there -- that he doesn't
know college football, that he's been in the NFL, that he's never really
coached a college team. So I didn't really know what to expect. But from
the first day I met him, he's been awesome. The media was wrong. He's
made for college football. He's got so much enthusiasm. He loves this
game. He loves to work. He's here at 6 o'clock in the morning and at night,
when I'm going to class, I always see his car. On the field, he's very,
very passionate about football. He's got a lot of intensity. He gets in
your face when you're not doing the right thing and he's the first one
to say "Good job." To be a college coach, you really need to be able to
relate to your players, and he does. He's got a great sense of humor.
He likes to goof around. He likes to have a good time. I can tell already
he's going to be a lot of fun to play for.
TSN: He'll be the second coach with an NFL
background that you've played for at USC. That's got to be a nice perk
for a guy who'd like to play in the NFL someday.
CP: Oh, definitely. Both of the head coaches I've played under
have had a tremendous amount of pro experience and they've both been able
to transfer what they know about the NFL into college football. Coach
Carroll has shown me some tape on (Drew) Bledsoe and shown me some things
they did in New England. He's talked to me about the next level. It's
great to know that he's been there and he'll be there for me if I get
the chance to go on.
TSN: Compare your new offense to the one you
ran last year.
CP: They're completely different. The West Coast offense is an
NFL-style offense. It's very complex and takes a while to learn. Coach
Chow's offense is very different. It's very basic. He pretty much taught
it to me in two weeks. The West Coast offense takes three years to learn.
We've already put in everything we have in Coach Chow's offense. In this
new offense, there's no seven-step drops. Everything is about getting
rid of the ball quick. If you hitch twice, you're wrong in this offense.
In the West Coast offense, you're taking a lot of five-step drops and
hitching a couple times and trying to find the third guy. This offense,
all you're doing is dropping back and getting rid of the ball as fast
as you can.
TSN: Sounds like you prefer the new offense.
CP: It's better for this team. The West Coast offense is tough
to run in college football. To do it, you've got to have every guy at
every position. You've got to have the tight end that can run down the
field, receivers for this down and for this pattern and a certain type
of running back. This offense is suited to what you have. If you have
a good receiver, you're going to run this play. If you have a back that
can't do this, you're not going to run this play.
TSN: Have you been happy with the way your
career has gone up to now?
CP: Definitely not. Definitely not. It's not what I expected and
not what I wanted. But this offense is definitely suited for my kind of
game. Sitting in the pocket and not having to move around too much. Getting
rid of the ball quickly and every once in a while, taking a shot downfield.
It would be nice to break out.
TSN: You came to USC with a lot of hype. Your
high school coach once said you had the size of Aikman, the arm of Elway
and the release of Marino. Do you ever wish people didn't expect so much
CP: No. I think that comes along with the position of quarterback.
Especially at a school like USC. You're always going to have expectations.
I don't know about the whole Aikman and Marino comparisons. That's kind
of far-fetched. That's just a high school coach saying that. But I kind
of like it because it makes me want to work harder. I had all these expectations
going into last year and I throw 18 interceptions and we end up losing
half our games. That's been my motivation this offseason. That's what's
pushed me -- to try to live up to those expectations and try to get past
them. Sometimes, they're so high, it's almost impossible to get past them.
But that still has to be what drives me, what makes me want to get better.
TSN: Who are your three favorite quarterbacks
CP: My favorite quarterback of all-time is Troy Aikman. My dad
was always a Cowboy fan, so I kind of liked them because he did. Then
Aikman got there and started winning some Super Bowls. He's a guy I felt
like I kind of played like. He's a bigger quarterback. Sits in the pocket,
doesn't move around too much. Once in a while, people tell me I look like
him -- just joking around. Other than the fact that he went to UCLA, he's
Then, of course, (former USC QB) Rob Johnson (whose
dad, Bob, taught Palmer everything he knows about quarterbacking in high
school). He's a phenomenal guy. I'll never forget the day I met him, in
ninth grade. I went to the SC game with my dad. His dad was having a tailgate
after the game and Rob came up. He had just beaten Arizona. That's when
they had the Desert Swarm defense and he had an awesome game. I went up
to him and said, "Hey Rob, great game." The first thing out of his mouth
was, "Hey, I heard you won league." He's congratulating me, a freshman
in high school, and he just beat the Desert Swarm. I was kind of taken
aback by that. Those are the two guys I've always followed. And then of
course, Montana and Marino and all those guys.
TSN: What's your most embarrassing sports moment?
CP: Hmmm. I've got 18 embarrassing sports moments from last year.
One doesn't stand out.
TSN: What would you want to do with your life
if you couldn't play football?
CP: I've always wanted to own a restaurant.
TSN: Oh yeah? What kind?
CP: Any kind. I love to eat and I love food and I always thought
it would be nice to go to a restaurant and eat free food. That's one of
TSN: What's the hardest you've ever been hit?
CP: I'd have to say two years ago, when I broke my collarbone against
TSN: Who got you?
CP: Michael Fletcher. He got me pretty good on the sideline.
TSN: How'd you pick your uniform number --
CP: I'd always worn 11 because that's what Rob Johnson wore. I
wanted No. 8 in high school, but an older guy already had it. I liked
3 for some reason. There wasn't someone that wore it that I really liked
TSN: Not a lot of famous No. 3s, are there?
CP: No. Montana in college. But that's not the reason.
TSN: What's your No. 1 summer priority?
CP: One thing I've really got to work on -- and Coach Chow is trying
to get me better at -- is my footwork. So I'm doing a lot of extra jump
rope and footwork stuff right now. All throughout the summer, I'm on my
own, studying my playbook.
TSN: What's in your CD player right now?
CP: I like country music. Probably a Tim McGraw CD.
TSN: Do your teammates know about this?
CP: Yeah. The offensive linemen listen to country. Actually, my
girlfriend is the one who got me into country music.
TSN: What's your favorite movie of all-time?
TSN: Favorite book?
CP: Bo Knows Bo.
TSN: Ooh, a classic. How about the most interesting
class you've taken in college?
CP: My criminal justice class. Living in LA, it just shocked me
some of the stuff that goes on here locally. Some of the crazy, stupid,
scary things people do kind of amazed me.
TSN: Ever met O.J.?
CP: No, I haven't.
TSN: What's your favorite LA hangout?
CP: I'm not a big club guy or bar guy. I like going to the Beverly
Center, which is a big mall in Beverly Hills, and just look at stuff I
wish I could buy. I go there quite a bit.
TSN: Whose poster did you have hanging on your
wall when you were a little kid?
CP: I had one of Aikman. I have one of Jordan right now. That's
about it. My mom didn't like me sticking tacks in the walls.
TSN: We hear you're getting new uniforms this
year. Describe them.
CP: They're the old-school SC jerseys. They're all red with a gold
triangle over the shoulders. It's awesome. We're excited about them. We
love them. We're going back to the black shoes with white shoelaces and
the red helmets with the gray facemasks. Trying to bring back the old
TSN: You take time out to read to kids as part
of the "Read Across America" program. What type of books?
CP: I try to pick the smallest Dr. Seuss books. Those things are
tongue twisters and when you're reading in front of second graders and
messing up on words, you feel pretty dumb.
Every Monday, Jeff will go "One-on-One" with a college football
personality. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.