Palmer came to Tucson and was probably good enough to play right away, but the staff decided to redshirt him. They had some talented depth at linebacker and wanted to stash Palmer away to get bigger, strong and frankly, get an extra year of his services.
Palmer wanted to play, but trusted the coaches and he is glad he did.
"What I was told is that the coaches wanted to hold back a lot of the freshmen and I understood that," Palmer explained. "Everybody wants to play and watching that first year was hard. Now I look back and I think that was the best thing for me. I needed, especially at my position, I needed a good year to see the system, know what is going on and understand my role. I am basically the quarterback of the defense. I need to know everybody's assignments and plays. That was the best thing for me."
Palmer feels that he is a much better player now. He's added a ton for muscle. He's now about 240 pounds and carries the weight very well. He is a big man who can motor.
He's also a more knowledgeable player. He's more mature and knows more about the system and what is expected of him, both on the field and within the program.
"Mentally I think I am in a much better mindset than last year," Palmer offered. "The weights definitely helped out. Especially being a year in the system. Coach Edmunds and Coach Hill have been a big help in the weight room. It's going real, real good right now. Everybody is getting bigger, stronger, faster. It's done wonders.
"Last year I had the high school mind set , now I understand it's a business and I have to approach it that way."
Before he signed the coaches sold him on being a part of the future. The recent past had been bleak, but Stoops and his assistants made Palmer believe that things could and would turn around fast.
The team only won three games last year, but Palmer does not feel that he was sold a bill of goods.
"Kind of what everyone used to say was going to happen is starting to happen," said Palmer. "It is definitely exciting. The town is excited. Weights, hitting weights, it's really exciting. Staying together. Seven-on-seven. The team is really looking good, in all phases. I think we are looking on the up and up. We are going to keep getting bigger and faster."
Right now Palmer looks like he has an inside track at a starting linebacker job, but he is by no means guaranteed a spot. In fact the linebacking corps is the deepest on the team. There could be as many as 11 players legitimately competing for playing time.
Some athletes would lose sleep at having to hold off so many great players, but Palmer is quite confident.
"They said it was going to have the most competition of all the positions," Palmer said of the linebackers. "Even this year the freshmen coming in are real, real strong. They are not looking to sit around and watch either. We are young, with only two seniors leaving there is a lot of competition. The two seniors are both playing the same position.
"Spencer (Larsen) makes me better every day," he continued. "It's going to be real exciting when camp starts. It's going to make everyone better in the long run. Plus it's going to make our team better as a whole."
Palmer is the future of the program. It has been a long time since there has been a linebacker with his size and speed to wear the Wildcat uniform. He has the potential to continue the tradition of great Wildcat linebackers that has stretched from Hunley to Briggs.
Many were surprised when the Wildcat pulled Ronnie Palmer in Mike Stoops' first recruiting class. It is not often that a staff can come in late and get a player with his credentials to commit.