Inside the Class of '04: Ryan Palmer

The 10th in a series of interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '04: Signee Ryan Palmer.

Ryan Palmer
Arlington Bowie HS
NR: 37 SR: 42 Rating: ***

An Inside Texas conversation with Bowie head coach Anthony Criss on Ryan Palmer:

IT: What are Ryan's strengths as a football player?

Criss: His main strengths are his speed, his quickness and his ability to cover man-to-man. He has excellent man-to-man cover skills, he has exceptional skills at breaking on the ball, and he has outstanding catch up speed. If a guy can get behind Ryan, he has the ability to catch up. He runs a legitimate 4.3. We've clocked him at 4.31, 4.29, 4.27. The slowest I've ever clocked him is 4.33. He's a 10.2 100 meters guy. He should win the 100 this year in the state track meet if he stays healthy.

IT: Last year when we talked about Brandon Foster, you mentioned the importance of hips in the play of a cornerback. How are Ryan's hips?

Criss: His hips are outstanding. To be able to cross over. He's an exceptional offensive player, too. Ryan had three interceptions this year, ran two back for touchdowns. One was 81 yards vs. Copperas Cove that was tremendous because he came off of his guy, picked the ball off and goes back 81 yards. And it wasn't just pick it off and go 81 straight, he had to pick it off and go across the field and make people miss. Then he took another back 60 or 70 yards where he picks it off and goes straight down the field and no one is going to catch him. He had three picks and nine attempts thrown at him. He gave up one reception and that was for a touchdown. It was a great play (by the wide receiver). He had great coverage but the kid just made an outstanding catch. People just didn't throw at him.

IT: What all did he do for you guys?

Criss: He played corner, wide receiver, slot back, he was our punt returner and our kick returner. He returned one kickoff for a touchdown. He didn't get any opportunities at punt, people wouldn't punt to him. He had two punts, he fielded one and muffed one and got knocked out in the Lamar game. Unconscious. He should have fair caught the ball [laughing]. That's the kind of daredevil he was back there. He had the green light from me. I didn't make him fair catch it... (I let him try to) make something happen. He was that type of exciting player. He scored five touchdowns on offense for us, two on reverse sweeps, speed sweeps (fly sweep). One time we just put him in the backfield and tossed him the ball and he ran 70 yards and outran everybody, so he's just a tremendous athlete.

IT: Is he capable of playing more than one position at the college level?

Criss: He's reminiscent of Champ Bailey. He has the kind of skills where he could play corner and could easily play wide receiver. He could step on campus and be one of the best receivers UT has also. His hands are incredible. He doesn't drop anything. His speed, his quickness, his ability to get down field is incredible.

IT: Where do you believe he'll play on the Forty Acres?

Criss: Corner.

IT: Talk about his return game abilities.

Criss: I like Nathan Vasher and Selvin Young. They rant rave about (Vasher's) kick return ability. Vasher's good, Selvin's good, but they're not Ryan Palmer. He does some things in the return game that you just go "Wow". The difference he has on Vasher and Selvin, Ryan is a true sprinter, so if gets by somebody, there's not gonna be anybody that can catch him.

IT: Can you see Ryan playing as a true freshman?

Criss: I think he has the ability, but I think personally he needs to redshirt because your body has to mature to go to college football. You need the year of being under Maddog and changing your body and then being mentally ready to go. (True freshmen Michael) Griffin, (Aaron) Ross, (Tarell) Brown, played only maybe 35-40 snaps... so I think if you get a redshirt and do all the practicing and get all that stuff in would be advantageous to him.

IT: Does Ryan want to play as a true freshman?

Criss: They all want to play when they first get there but my advice is, take the redshirt. Brandon is so happy he redshirted now.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Ryan's ability as a football player?

Criss: The Martin game, because he was able to catch a long pass for a touchdown, he ran for a touchdown, he picked a ball and ran it back for a touchdown, gave up a score and got chewed out [laughing], it all happened in the same night. When he gives up the touchdown and I go get in his face, like, 'You gave up a reception. You weren't supposed to give up a reception this year. You owe me.' So he comes back, runs for a touchdown, catches a touchdown, then after he catches the interception, runs it back 70 yards for a touchdown and clinches the game in the fourth quarter, he said, 'Coach, did I pay you back?' I said, 'I don't know, I'll let you know tomorrow morning.' [laughing] But I was really like, My goodness! He's that type of player.

IT: What are the areas of his game that Ryan needs to improve upon to be successful at the next level?

Criss: When no one throws at you, you don't know. He'll just have to work on the ability to be mentally tough because he goes two years and no one throws at him. When you go to the college level, they don't care who you are, they throw at you, they don't care how great you're supposed to be. The mental part of being able to handle someone making a catch. Outside of that, his ball skills will just grow because of the work ethic he has. He's always first in line, always wants to go against the best receiver. He doesn't back down. He doesn't fear anybody, so I think the main thing will be to adjust to the college game and I think he'll do that with no problem.

IT: Is Ryan a leader, and if so, how does he lead?

Criss: He was a big leader, very vocal (on the field) and he could back it up with his play. He always encouraged the guys, go to 'em, try to keep 'em picked up, make a big play when he needed to. He was in the guy's ear trying to encourage, take the young kids and try to build them up, let them know what they can do and talking to them and trying tell them 'This is how coach Criss is, he's going to yell and scream but don't break down, it's going to be OK, I made it through you can make it through to.' He'll be vocal. He won't be shy. He's a competitor, a big competitor. He's a low-key guy (off the field), doesn't say too much. He's real fiery but not very talkative. He's a good kid. Fierce competitor. Jeckyl and Hyde. Off the field he'll be just as nice but on the field he gets all up and into it.

IT: Anything that we didn't cover that you'd like to add?

Criss: Ryan came to us as a baseball player. If he didn't run track, he'd get drafted in baseball. He was a shortstop/centerfielder. He was a great baseball player. Freshman year he played football, baseball and track, and he was on his way to varsity baseball. He fell into track because I encourage all of my football players to run track, so we found out he was fast on the track by accident. He didn't come to us a track person. He ran a 4.47 as a freshman. (The relay team that included Palmer and Foster) ran the third fastest (high school 4x100) time ever and we were the fastest team in the nation last year (40.06). Second fastest time in the 4x200 and we barely missed it by 1/100 of a second. And Ryan ran a 4.29 on grass at UT football camp to earn Fastest Man title, second fastest time ever at the camp.

Note from Clendon: Over the years, Coach Criss has become one of my favorite high school coaches to deal with. He is accessible and talkative, quick with a story and a laugh, and obviously cares deeply for the kids he coaches. Our visit came about a week before Signing Day, and he was entertaining a recruiter from Sam Houston State as well as placing and fielding calls from other coaches in his effort to get some of his other kids college scholarships. (An aside: the Bearkats coach visiting Bowie bragged about his school's QB situation, which with the transfers of Dustin Long from A&M and Noah Allen from OU is the envy of a host of D-I schools.) And Criss is also a Texas fan. He attended UT for three years and has a bit of Longhorn memorabilia in his office and speaks with an obvious affection for Texas, its coaches and it players. He was set to host Mack Brown later that week, and he said the Longhorn head coach is treated as a celebrity in the hallways of the school, where almost 30 members of the faculty are UT grads... We first reported on Palmer over a year ago in the Feb. 6, 2003 edition of the Inside Scoop: Arlington Bowie coach Anthony Criss told IT that CB Ryan Palmer, who played the corner opposite UT signee Brandon Foster last season (and who also returned punts and kicks), is one to watch. Criss lists Palmer at 5-8 and 155 pounds with a 4.3 forty and a 9.9 100! "He can flat out fly," Criss said. "I call him Mr. Excitement."

*Photos by Will Gallagher/Inside Texas*

NEXT UP: Nic Redwine

Horns Digest Top Stories