Recruiters drooled over his size (6-5, 230) and his cannon arm, and he approached "phenom" status in the prep ranks.
Fans called for him to replace the veteran quarterback his true freshman season, and early play for the true freshman yielded promising results. It appeared that playing for a former NFL coach who was lauded as an offensive genius would bring tremendous success for the young man.
His sophomore year was played on a somewhat inconsistant squad, and his youth was exposed, but he managed a fairly spectacular year nonetheless, throwing for around 3,000 yards. Excellent production for a sophomore quarterback.
But the college game being what it is, he found the start of his junior season being spent trying to learn a new offense under the tutelage of another former NFL head coach.
Some say he had trouble digesting the change and the playbook, and fans wrung their hands in frustration. He performed brilliantly at times and absolutely ATROCIOUSLY at others. His erratic play and sometimes wild inaccuracy yielded what to many was a completely unacceptable touchdown to interception ratio.
With his senior year ahead, the quarterback was slapped with the OVERRATED label, destined to go down as an underacheiver who didn't have the head to go with his tremendous physical talents.
Now...how many of you think I am talking about Derek Anderson? Raise your hands.
And how many of you have figured out that I am talking about Carson Palmer? Now give yourself a pat on the back.
Actually, the question is rather disingenuous...I'm talking about both players. They both share a similar career arc: Sky-high expectations as a prep star, high interception numbers and a mid-stream coaching change after his sophomore year.
Many differences remain. It could easily be argued that Anderson is much "younger" than Palmer as a sophomore, given that Palmer was granted a medical redshirt after breaking his collarbone just three games into his (true) sophomore year. Additionally, Palmer threw 288 passes prior to the start of his (redshirt) sophomore campaign, where Anderson had thrown just 41. Palmer played in 13 games as a true freshman, Anderson five. Big difference in actual game time.
Here is a quick side-by-side comparison for their sophomore years (using Palmer's redshirt sophomore year for the comparo):
Palmer Anderson ------ -------- Passes attempted: 415 449 Passes completed: 228 211 Pass yardage: 2914 3313 Pass touchdowns: 16 25 Rush touchdowns: 2 2 Interceptions: 18 13
At this point you would conclude that Anderson wins the head-to-head comparison, despite being far less seasoned.
We will make a concession that there are probably two big factors in this: One, Anderson played for Dennis Erickson, a legitimate coaching legend, while Palmer played for Paul Hackett. Two, Anderson had the Pac-10's best running back in the backfield with him, while Palmer had Sultan McCullough.
Going into junior years, both players are learning a new offensive system.. DA with Mike Riley, and CP with Norm Chow under Pete Carroll. Both are learning new systems...both have a strong reputation for being "inconsistant."
Quick side by side comparison:
Palmer Anderson ------ -------- Passes attempted: 377 510 Passes completed: 221 261 Pass yardage: 2717 4058 Pass touchdowns: 13 24 Rush touchdowns: 1 4 Interceptions: 12 24
Interesting statistics here. Anderson obviously threw the ball all over the field, becoming just the second Pac-10 quarterbackto ever throw for over 4,000 yards. His 28 total touchdown's dwarf Palmer's 14, but his interceptions's also double Palmer's number of 12.
I know the party line is that the 24 interceptions's were utterly unacceptable, but looking at the stats again, I'd posit that Derek had a darn good year, in his first year in a new system.
It also looks like Coach Riley trusted Anderson with the keys to the offense more than Chow of Palmer...or at the very least asked more of him.
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
Palmer rode into his senior season with a true freshman prodigy at wide receiver and a very productive, workmanlike wide receiver opposite him, and an entirely new backfield.
The results? Keeping the same format...
Passes attempted: 489 Passes completed: 309 Pass yardage: 3942 Pass touchdowns: 33 Rush touchdowns: 4 Interceptions: 10
Result? Heisman trophy, and a No. 1 draft choice.
So now the question becomes, can Anderson find that success in his second year in Mike Riley's system? Many factors figure into the answer to that question...a key in both equations may be a receiver fans call BMW...Big Mike Williams...and Burnell Michael Wallace.
Kinda gives you goosebumps, doesn't it.
OrangeAttack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.