Lighter Carmon Working For Big Blocking Job

Hold on, stop the presses…or whatever the net-world equivalent is. There is big news: Coach Matt Balis has been reported giving a Bulldog ballplayer the choice of setting his own playing weight!

Alright, maybe that's not quite on the level of declaring war or stock market chaos. But anyone at all familiar with how Mississippi State football operates knows well this strength coach is not known for giving Bulldogs poundage to play with. So when James Carmon said he was actually offered some leeway to work with, well, that was news.

Though perhaps not so ‘big' news even as what Carmon sees on the scales these days. "305," he proudly proclaims, and upon open surprise among reporters he grinned bigger. "Yeah, that's crazy, isn't it! But it's cool."

Cool? To see this State senior looking so fit, even trim by offensive line standards, is beyond frigid for what it hopefully means to Bulldog blocking plans. Remember, Carmon reported to campus some 19 months ago breaking scales at a reputed 370 pounds. Just achieving a working weight of 320 or so for his junior season was no, ummm, small achievement.

But 305 is approaching miracle-worker status for Balis and staff. And there's even more to it, because Carmon was still nigh 315 pounds just a few weeks prior to preseason practices. Now here he is within a few meals of 300…not that he means to head any further in that downward direction for now.

"Yeah, I track it every day. I'm moving good for my weight, I'm not getting pushed around, so I think I might be a fit at 305." Not just a fit, but fit period. So much so that the unthinkable happened when Balis wrote down that 305 figure after a daily check of Carmon.

"I said I felt good, Coach Balis said if you want be there, be there; but if you want to go back up if you feel too light, do it. But I said I wanted to be 305, I feel quicker."

Carmon needs to stay quick, if not actually light, on his feet these August days. He is in the thick of a tight contest to win the starting left tackle position and fill the spot vacated by Derek Sherrod. It was specifically for this purpose and position that Carmon got a quick week's work during Gator Bowl preparations, then spent all spring matching snaps with redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell.

Five days into preseason it is Carmon holding on to the #1 depth chart slot…which means next to nothing in regards to who is the ‘starter'. So Carmon sticks to the camp tasks as if trying to win a place on the roster, much less top status. Besides, he is still transitioning from years as a defensive tackle.

"Yeah, I try to come out every day and get myself better. I'm still learning the system, there's still stuff I need to do, still stuff I need to clean up. But every day I'm planning on taking the next step. I'm not trying to take big steps, I'm just taking it step-by-step and day-by-day so when it's time I have everything down pat and know what I need to do."

Now that comment is most telling, both of Carmon's confidence and his maturity. It would be too easy for a senior in his situation, trying to make a name at a position in just one year, to rush everything. Get in a hurry and lose focus, technique, poise. Not Carmon. The big guy is working on small steps to avoid tripping himself up.

Goodness knows it can be easy to do so, especially in the aspect left tackles are most known for. He was a genuine offensive prospect out of high school but spent his junior college career and 2010 State season chasing after, not blocking for quarterbacks. Carmon has altered his mindset just fine; it's the feet that often forget which side of the line they're working now.

"Protections. Protections. That's the main thing, the main point of being left tackle, you have the blind side. Oh, and as Carmon notes, "All our quarterbacks are right-handed."

His #1 standing in early camp may be tenuous but it did have a benefit last Friday and Saturday. Those were days Dan Mullen split the roster for separate workouts; the result being Carmon got to practice two whole days against the first-team defensive line. Clausell worked against the second unit. A small advantage, maybe, but that's how close things are for starting jobs in this camp.

"I'm trying to compete, therefore that's what you need to do," said Carmon. "Because nobody is going to take it light on us…especially not me! Everybody is going to be gunning at me because I'm new to the position. So that's my challenge, to go hard every day and do what I have to do. If I have to go with the fours that's what I'll do because I'm trying to compete and take the spot."

The competition resumed Tuesday afternoon with the first of State's four two-a-day dates, which was to emphasize passing plays at that. Mullen won't scrimmage the squad game-style until next weekend but there will be plenty of designated contact periods at regular practices for Carmon to throw his toned-and-honed weight around.

Within the context of team plans for all August, that is.

"I'm really kind of pacing myself, because we've still got a long time. We've still go to the first game, then the next game is Auburn. So I'm really not trying to pack it all in there at one time. Because I know the first game we're probably not going to try to run everything. So I'm really getting the main things and the main points I need, so we can be successful this year."

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