18 USC Palmer is back in good health, and for the Trojans that could make all the difference

Aug. 14, 2000
Aug. 14, 2000

Table of Contents
Aug. 14, 2000

College Football Preview 2000

18 USC Palmer is back in good health, and for the Trojans that could make all the difference

Near the end of the first half against Oregon early last season,
Southern Cal quarterback Carson Palmer took off on an ill-advised
scramble that left him with a broken collarbone--and the Trojans
with a shattered season. Completing 73.6% of his passes, Palmer
had led the Trojans to victories in their first two games, but
with the sophomore sidelined for the rest of the season, they
would lose that third game to the Ducks and then drop five of
their next six.

This is an article from the Aug. 14, 2000 issue Original Layout

With a body (6'5", 220 pounds) built for the NFL, and great
passing ability, Palmer, in 1998, had become the second true
freshman in school history to start at quarterback, and USC went
8-5. But Palmer approached the position with a laid-back
attitude reflective of his surfer-dude upbringing in Orange
County, preferring on-field improvisation to preparation. That
all changed last fall when he was forced to break down film and
help prepare each week's game plan. Such immersion in the
complicated West Coast offense had never occurred to him during
his whirlwind freshman season. "Carson played only 2 1/2 games
last year, but his development has been staggering," says coach
Paul Hackett.

Palmer's maturation is just one of the enticing developments at
USC. The Trojans boast one of the best defenses in the country
and retain 10 starters from a playmaking unit that led the nation
in takeaways (39) while also scoring eight touchdowns. Southern
Cal has a formidable linebacking duo in seniors Zeke Moreno
(team-high 108 tackles) and Markus Steele (team-leading 15
tackles for losses).

The offense has a few question marks, beginning at tailback.
With 1,000-yard rusher Chad Morton now with the New Orleans
Saints, Hackett plans to go with a tailback-by-committee, using
215-pound bruiser Malaefou MacKenzie, speedy Sultan McCullough
and Petros Papadakis, a short-yardage specialist. The receiving
corps is led by sophomore Kareem Kelly, the Pac-10 freshman of
the year in '99.

As for Palmer, who was granted a redshirt year, he's learned
from his mistakes and has developed a new strategy. "Next time,"
he says, "I'll go out-of-bounds."

--Alan Shipnuck

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Palmer's pro-sized body is big, strong and, most important, repaired.

Fast Facts

1999 record: 6-6 (3-5, T6 in Pac-10)
Final ranking: not ranked

Telling Number

Seasons since a Trojan has put together back-to-back seasons
with 1,000 yards rushing.

The Book

An opposing team's coach sizes up The Trojans

"They are the most skilled team in the Pac-10....Having a
healthy Palmer at quarterback is huge. He's a big strong guy
with good field vision....McCullough can fly, and their
offensive line is solid as always....Kelly is one of the most
explosive and exciting players in the country....Their defense
is big, athletic and aggressive. To get them on their heels you
better put a lot of pressure on their secondary."

Strength: 38th of 115

Aug. 27 vs. Penn State*

30 at Oregon State

21 at Stanford

Nov. 4 at Arizona State
18 at UCLA

*At East Rutherford