"Yeah, nervousness. Just a little nervousness, that's all it was. I had to get it out of my system." The odd thing was his feelings where shared by a most unexpected person. Line coach John Hevesy did not in fact kill his brand-new left tackle for jumping the gun…twice. "He said he knew it was going to happen so just calm down and you're going to be alright."
No, stop right there James. Are you really reporting that Hevesy, he of the voice that grinds gravel and vocabulary to peel paint, wasn't doing some verbal blistering on the Liberty Bowl sideline? (Senior center Quentin Saulsberry rolled his eyes at the suggestion, saying there was some real reproaching at the time.) But Carmon sticks to his version.
"To be honest he really did. He just smiled at me and laughed and said I (colorful description deleted for good taste). I said yeah, Coach, I'm ready to go now. And I was ready to go after that!"
Go Carmon did, taking care of business the rest of the evening as if nothing had gone wrong initially. Sunday evaluations proved it.
"I graded out good. I would have graded out champion if I hadn't jumped offsides! Coach told me look at your percentages, you graded out good and if you hadn't jumped offsides you'd have graded champion. I said dang, coach; and he said that's what we've got to do next game."
Old line dog Hevesy had good reason to expect some pre-snap nerves from Carmon. His situation is well-known, as a veteran defensive lineman and regular in the 2010 rotation made the big step across the trench to play offense. Offensive tackle. Left offensive tackle, at that. And if the move needed magnifying further, into the role filled the last three years by Derek Sherrod, the first-round draftee of world champs Green Bay.
A major move indeed. And the right one, Carmon is all the more certain today despite that slightly-sputtering start.
"I really do feel better. I feel this is the best decision I ever made in my life, this is the position I'm supposed to be at, left tackle. I knew that before I made the decision. I'm a starter now, I'm playing way more snaps than I did last year."
Now he won't play many snaps if Carmon doesn't keep his feet under him and head in-tune with his quarterback. Oddly though it may well have been best to debut as he did; make the glaring gaffes right out in the open, settle himself, and get in a winning flow. Certainly Carmon knows what address this week.
"That's definitely the biggest thing, staying onsides and with the snap count. And especially when we go silent and stuff like that make sure I'm doing the right steps. Memphis was a good team and I wanted to showcase what I could do against them. But now it's time to really ball up at another level."
‘Deed it is. Carmon is being a bit generous in calling Memphis good, yet there is no exaggerating how much more potent this week's Tiger opponent can be. Make that ‘will be' Carmon said. Some want to read too much into how Auburn struggled against an under-appreciated Utah State squad. The Bulldogs don't. If anything, Carmon said the risk might be getting caught-up in what the Tigers did in 2010.
"Auburn is a good team, they won the championship last year. But we're not looking at that, we're trying to look at it as another game for us. Another big game for me especially, having a big role to play."
Even bigger than usual for the high-profile left tackle position. Mississippi State is not a pocket-passing offense of course but right-handed quarterback Chris Relf still has a blind-side to protect. The duty first falls to Carmon, who at 6-7 and around 310 pounds now (per him) assuredly can make a sizable road-block in that direction. The trick, just as back in spring, is making a complete transition from his former ‘attack' mindset on defense to staying disciplined in the position and sticking to the play.
Besides, those early-game missteps are absolutely certain to stand out in Auburn scouting; they are assured of coming at his end to test the least-experienced blocker on the Bulldog front. Carmon's reaction? Study harder, hone technique, and listen closer to coaching.
"That's all it is. If they want to attack me, bring it on. I'm a senior, I took on the role to be a starter, I'm just waiting for it." Even the prospect of Auburn alternating defensive linemen to keep fresh pressure on is simply another aspect of the deal Carmon signed up for when he moved.
"We're just ready to go, for whoever is in front of us, and play ball." The ‘we' hopefully includes the guy Carmon had to compete with in spring and preseason. Oddly Blaine Clausell is years younger but actually a bit more experienced at a true tackle, having practiced there now for two springs and a redshirt fall. Clausell was suspended for the Memphis game so has yet to make his Dog debut.
And Carmon was quick to catch a question leading in that direction and keep his response on company key. All he'd say related to Clausell's presumed return was it will help depth…but that at the same time the younger tackle will have his own first-game nerves to handle. Well, the frosh will now know who to ask about that.
"He's still probably going to make the same mistakes I'm going to make. But Coach Hevesy says just calm down, just calm down, you know what you're supposed to do. Just go in and do what you've got to do." Carmon knows his own duty for week-two, too. Opening night nerves are past, as are any excuses.
"I'm still new to it, but I'm a starter now and I really have to pick up the pace for my team," he said. "It's going to be physical, it's a SEC game so it's going to be physical across the whole board. Even the wide receivers are going to be physical. So I'm ready for the game to come and just get it in."