Carson Palmer - USC

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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

Jeff D'Alessio
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 of you?
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 of all-time?
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 my favorite.

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 my dreams.

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 Oregon.

TSN: Who got you?
CP: Michael Fletcher. He got me pretty good on the sideline.

TSN: How'd you pick your uniform number -- 3?
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 or anything.

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?
CP: Braveheart.

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 days.

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 jdalessio@sportingnews.com.