Palmer Anxious To Show What He Can Do

Auburn's Jonathan Palmer talks about the reasons he decided to return for his senior season.

Auburn, Ala.--After careful consideration and talks with his family and position coach, Auburn junior offensive lineman Jonathan Palmer says that in the end education and the chance to win another championship were the overriding factors in his decision to return for his senior season.

"I decided to come back for another year," Palmer tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "One of the most important reasons for me was to continue my education and try to get my engineering degree. Another factor is that I'm looking at starting next year at either center or tackle. I just figured I could go higher if I come back and start.

"Now that all this is out of the way I can focus on trying to get the rest of the team together and trying to lead this team to another SEC Championship and possibly the National Championship. We've got to get focused."

A two-time starter for the Tigers this season at center, the 6-4, 318 Palmer played outstanding football as the offense did well in both games. He was particularly impressive against Alabama in the season finale when starter Joe Cope was unable to go because of an injury. Despite limited playing time, his performances on the field were enough for the NFL to give him a good evaluation, something that Palmer says made his decision a little tougher.

"My initial thoughts on the evaluation were that it was good, but I knew I could do better," Palmer says. "With the situation at hand (not being guaranteed a starting job next year) it was something I had to look into. That's why I had to weigh my options.

"I knew my teammates and everyone was looking up to me," he adds. "I was going to be a senior and I didn't want to let them down. I figured it was my chance. I can come back and show everybody what I can do as a starter."

Palmer is a physical player who can play all five positions.

He is less than a year away from obtaining his degree in electrical engineering, something that has been important to both Palmer and his family since the recruiting process. He says that while it hasn't always been easy, it will be worth it in the end.

"It has been really difficult," Palmer says. "Engineering is hard, but I think it's more time consuming than anything. Being an athlete time is of the essence. I'm usually up late at night getting two hours of sleep and sometimes no sleep because I'm studying or working on projects. It has been a long road, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

With starters Cope, Ben Grubbs and Timmy Duckworth returning in the middle, Palmer could get a look at one of the tackle spots in addition to challenging Cope at center. He says that's something coach Hugh Nall told him when they met before Palmer made his decision.

"I think I have a good chance at both positions," Palmer says. "I'm pretty versatile so I can play all five positions. I think he's going to start me off at center and see how that goes. If need be I can go play tackle."

One of the people who Palmer looked to in this time was teammate Marcus McNeill. Not only did he have the same decision to make last season, but he also knows Palmer perhaps better than anyone because of their history together in high school and at Auburn.

"Marcus likes to play around a lot, but he just told me ‘you do whatever you think is best,'" Palmer says. "He said ‘I'm behind you 100 percent.' That's what a lot of people were telling me. They were like ‘anyway you go I'm going to be behind you.' That was encouraging. I could always look to him (McNeill) for some comic relief so it's going to be different without him."

When spring practice starts one of the spots that will get the most attention on offense is up front where Nall will be looking to replace McNeill and Troy Reddick as the starting tackles. A coach who has always wanted to get his five best players on the field, this season may be just the one Nall has looked for with Palmer returning. He says he's glad to have the physical presence back on the line for one more season.

"I'm glad to know he's coming back," Nall says. "That's the right decision for him number one from a football standpoint and from an academic standpoint. He's a year away from graduating and he'll have a chance to get that degree.

"I have always thought JP was one of the most talented kids I had," he adds. "After talking to him I really feel good about him being focused on him getting the most out of his ability. That certainly adds to the depth of the offensive line. I project him being a starter whether it's at center, one of the guards or one of the tackles.

"I think he's talented enough to play tackle and athletic enough to play tackle,"Nall adds. "I thought every time he played center he showed progress throughout the year. He'll have some experience at center coming into it. I'm excited for him and I'm excited for us that he's coming back."

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