Carmon Taking Initial Steps In New Position

The question gives James Carmon pause; what's the easiest aspect of crossing the line of scrimmage to play an entirely different position? "Hmmmm..." he ponders. "There's really not an easy part right now, because I'm just into it. So it's really not that easy, it's really hard."

The Mississippi State senior has a point. Changing positions at this point of a college career is rarely easy. In this case maybe all the more so, as a proven defensive tackler tries transitioning to offensive blocker. Yet it is a move both Carmon and his coaches agree with. Welcome, even, as this big man gets first shot at filling the biggest vacancy on the Bulldog front line.

"But the easy part is me just getting in the film room and getting to know what I have to do every day," Carmon said following the first two days of spring practices at the left tackle position. And believe it, this Dog and several of his fellow—if younger—linemen have been going over the video a lot lately.

Above and beyond regular demands, even.

"We go to meetings every day, then I always come for like an extra hour," Carmon said. Usually, he added, in company with redshirt freshman guard Damien Robinson who has his own learning curve to accelerate this spring. "I always put in an extra hour talk to Coach (John) Hevesy.

"And I'm always in my playbook. Every chance I get I'm in my playbook, my playbook, my playbook. I need to learn what I do." With a couple of practices in the spring video books he has more such chances to learn, though Carmon says it isn't always easy watching at times. His relative inexperience shows up on the screen to reinforce what Hevesy points out—typically quite loudly—during drills.

"It is a big change," Carmon acknowledges. "A real big change."

Still it is also a rather obvious move for Mississippi State to make with the graduation of Derek Sherrod, who should hear his name called in the earliest rounds of the upcoming NFL draft. Nor is this an entirely new role for Carmon, who did his share of blocking back in the day at City College High in Baltimore. In fact he was recruited by some college as an offensive line prospect, though once in junior college Carmon was booked to tackle rather than block.

It speaks much for the coaching staff's all-around approach to personnel though that defensive line coach Chris Wilson hasn't put up a—at least not public—fuss about losing this senior. Carmon might only have been statistically credited with eight tackles as a junior Bulldog but his rotation presence was obvious on the interior. Opposing offenses had to adjust their plans whenever Carmon took his place either over the ball or just to one side.

But when the Bulldogs began practicing for the Gator Bowl there was #95 lining up as left offensive tackle for the first week of drills. Now in March he's back there, albeit wearing a more appropriate #77, and competing with redshirt Blaine Clausell for the spring starting job.

His own Saturday verdict on the first couple of tests is…mixed.

"Today was kind of rough on me because it was going quicker than it was Thursday. It was a little rough. But I'm every day I continue to try to get better. I'm going to pick it up, it's going to happen sooner or later but it's going to happen. Before the season starts."

Carmon not only puts in the extra video review time, he and some fellow blocking competitors work overtime on their craft without any coaches helping. Passers-by who see such a group as, say, Carmon, guard Gabe Jackson, and tackle Addison Lawrence taking stances and firing off can see how seriously these Dogs are taking things this spring.

Besides, Carmon said, he benefits from having settled starters offering their own ‘coaching'. "They really know the offense, they know what to do. So they're really working on me, working on getting my steps down and all the plays down pat."

Before any ask, the answer is yes. There are those times Carmon physically forgets what side of the line he occupies now. Take the unit meeting review of last week's opening practice.

"I thought I had a good day, then I watched film and Coach Hevesy is ripping me about my first step "Don't take your first step to the side!". I see that, dang, it must be that power-step that Coach Wilson is teaching!" All well and good for reacting to an offense, not so powerful when trying to re-establish the line of contact in favor of an offense.

"But by next week I should be out of it," Carmon insists.

What the senior is in these days is the best shape of his career. He proudly proclaims a 320 weight this spring. "320, even," he emphasizes. "I managed to hold it, too." Carmon played last season on defense at 335, and of course all recall his much greater girth upon reporting to campus in January 2010. That man in the mirror is a much finer-looking fellow, Carmon agreed.

"Yeah, I'm surprised, I can't lie! But last year when I was 370 it wasn't like just all over the place, I was still in my build. I was just bigger. Now I'm just more toned-up, and less fat."

With the body toned-up Carmon can concentrate on getting his mindset tuned-up for this position. There have been some early frustrations but Carmon said his teammates offer the correct encouragement and advice. "They tell me you've still got months before we kick off anything, you're going to get it and everybody wants you over here." Also, some early stumbles were inevitable as for the first two days of Dog drills the offensive emphasis has been passing plays.

Come Tuesday and Coach Dan Mullen plans to pound the ground with the team pulling on full padding. That, Carmon said, he is really looking forward to.

"Because I'm starting to get the protections, I'm starting to pick it up more than the run. I'm trying to level it out every day and learn every single day. So that when the time comes Tuesday, I'm smashing them boys! Yeahhhh, have to show off my muscle a little bit!"

Though, he adds, he might not mind showing off some old skills come scrimmages. "I'm waiting for one of them to catch an interception so I can hit them because I know I can go get ‘em!" OK, he means only in practices; Carmon isn't requesting Chris Relf throw the football to a real opponent just so he can make a tackle.

His task is not blocking tackles and ends and anyone else that gets in the way of State's offense. Sherrod has talked with Carmon about the position and offered sound counsel and Carmon plans to follow in those sizable cleat-steps. He assuredly intends to be a success here in 2011.

"For one thing, I'm a senior. And number two are my expectations for me, and Coach Hevesy wants me to someone like Derek Sherrod. But he knows it's going to take time for me to be exactly like Sherrod. And I'm going to keep getting better and getting better and do what I have to do."

And, what he wants to do, too. "Because I know what goal and my dream is and I'm going to get to it regardless of what I have to do to get there." The goal of course is playing professionally at his best projected position of offensive tackle. Oh, which gets back to that original question. There is one quick answer—make the big NFL bucks when the time comes.

"Yeah, that's the easy part, knowing that!"

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