The pair of prospects most will talk about leading up to the season could end up in the top sixty selections or in the final few frames. As a true freshman Carson Palmer looked like the next great franchise quarterback, a strong-armed pocket passer that consistently led his team to victory in '98. It's been downhill since then; a broken collarbone as a true sophomore, erratic play characterized by poor decisions and a passer seemingly on a different page as his wide outs has plagued Palmer the past two seasons. What gives? To our minds the turning point was quarterback coach Ken O'Brien's departure from the program just prior to Palmer's junior campaign. O'Brien hand-held Palmer through his first year from behind center and did a great job of it but after not accepting a demotion to tight ends coach in '00 O'Brien left USC and for the most part, Palmer seemingly is on his own. Physically gifted and fundamentally sound Palmer makes all the passes and is a tough thrower that sits in the pocket, getting clobbered to get the ball off. He is slow of foot, immobile and not quick in his head. Palmer's overall accuracy would also be categorized just as "adequate". We are not ready to discount him based on his physical skills and toughness but Palmer needs a huge senior campaign before considering him in the first four rounds. Another that falls into this category is receiver Kareem Kelly. As athletic a wide out as you'll find in the senior class, Kelly has the skills to break the game wide open making long receptions down the flanks, or controlling it over the middle and on the outs. He is agile, flexible and makes the difficult receptions in contorted positions. It would also be correct to characterized Kelly as an immature child, to the point where many feel he is all talk and no action. For all his physical talent Kelly's play can best be described as lackadaisical, uninspired and inconsistent. He produces half of what he is capable of, gives half-hearted efforts and constantly leaves you wanting for more. Prior to last season he was saying all the right things after the coaching change but proved it was all bunk as he went out and preformed in his usual less-than-adequate manor. In many ways he reminds us of a former SC wide out R Jay Soward the way he constantly disappoints. Kelly is the type of guy that could be drafted as early as the top of round two should he put it together but more than like will be sitting around in the late frames still waiting to here his name called. Sultan McCullough has twice the speed of older brother Saladin (former Oregon back) but less than have the run instincts. If given the slightest bit of daylight McCullough is gone to the races, leaving defenders in the dust and running to daylight but he's not a ball carrier that creates if nothing is available nor one overly effective outside of tackle around the corner. McCullough's pass catching skills are barely adequate which will also push down his ranking. For what it's worth we think he is a lesser version of Trung Candidate, a former PAC Ten runner we were never high on. One skill player we like for the future is receiver Keary Colbert, a consistent and hard working "go to guy" with some size. Offensive guard Zach Wilson is effective in a small area and may get some late round consideration while center/guard Lenny Vandermade disappointed us greatly last season, though he was injured. Only a junior he has two more seasons to pull it together. One last note; keep an eye on Justin Fargas the Michigan transfer who should get more than his fair share of carries in the backfield this season.
Safety Troy Polamalu is a hard-hitting, run defender that loves to mix it up and get involved in the action. Polamalu has a good amount of upside to his game but must really improve his play against the pass and make more of an impact when the ball is in the air if he's top move towards the front of the draft.