Trimming Down Is Big Summer Goal For Carmon

The big news about James Carmon these days is…well, that there isn't quite as much of James Carmon to be hauled around. And if he has his summer-way, there will be even less of him come reporting day for preseason camp.

"The goal for this summer is me getting down to 320 pounds," reported Carmon, after completing his Wednesday morning workout. "I'm down to 330 now, and in July I should be getting down to 320."

Now, that is still quite a sizable bulk of a Bulldog to line up at defensive tackle this 2010 season. But compared to the fellow that came to campus in January, listed at 360 but realistically busting scales a good bit north of that official figure, why, he's practically just a shadow of his former self now. It's a markedly different guy looking back from the mirror, Carmon agrees.

"But now I really recognize myself because I'm getting more cut and lean." OK, maybe not in the exact same sort of lean-and-mean image presented by a Bulldog linebacker, much less a safety. But it's all relative and Carmon is completely correct that any before-and-after photos would make this month's edition look practically magazine cover-quality. And as Carmon says, he isn't pausing at 330 pounds.

"Coach (Matt) Balis tells me every day I'm going to get you down, but you have to put in the work. That's what I've been doing and I've been getting right."

Mississippi State's defensive staff certainly finds Carmon a right fit for their 2010 gameplans. During his first season Coach Dan Mullen often said his year-two recruiting goal was finding more beef for the Bulldog d-line, and the prime objective turned into Mississippi Gulf Coast CC's plus-size tackle. It was a real recruiting battle as after two junior college seasons Carmon played himself into a top-ten national prospect. But the Baltimore, Md., product was successfully convinced State would be the ideal situation to show his skills in SEC action.

Skills? Absolutely. Fans and likely foes alike may figure that State recruited Carmon just for the size. But this big guy brings a whole lot more than mere—sheer?—bulk to campus. Put another way, Carmon wants it known right now he is not simply a short-yard substitute to jam-up an offense.

"I'm not just a nose guy," he says. "I can be a true tackle. Plus, we run a 4-3 so I know I can be a true tackle."

That's what line coach Chris Wilson and coordinator Manny Diaz expect of Carmon. In spring camp he was slotted most often at left tackle, with sophomore veteran Josh Boyd the first man in that particular rotation. Though a ‘starter' will be listed the real plan is to alternate everybody up front, as well as prepare them to play both right and left of center. This holds true for the defensive ends, too. Wilson likes his linemen to be able to put either hand on the ground and whip any blocker, at any slot, they are aimed at.

Admittedly Carmon has been able to thrive in high school and juco football by throwing his considerable bulk around. In fact if Mississippi State wanted to, Carmon could keep playing it this way and still make an impact in the SEC. But to his credit Carmon is intent on becoming the complete tackle-package, so he spent spring learning technical aspects to life on the line. And now, even without anyone lined-up opposite him, he spends summer days trying to mimic specific drills on his own.

"Really I just need to work on disengaging," he says of his summer priorities. "Like, I like to read (the offense) a whole lot, and coach tells me I've got to stop reading and disengage and move and go forward." So are he and Coach Wilson on the proverbial same-page yet? "Uhhh, we're getting there! We're getting there!"

Understand, though, that there is still very much a role in Diaz' defense for pure power on the line. And nobody brings it like Carmon, which is why spring-camp observers were daily treated to the sight of Carmon taking a stance right over the ball, in the middle of the short-yard/goal-line scheme, and firing straight ahead on the snap. Usually, in the process, caving-in the center of State's offensive line and blowing up any interior plays.

"Oh, they really got tired of me!" laughs Carmon of how State's centers handled the onslaught. "I had to teach J.C. (Brignone) because he's the starter and everything, I had to show him yeah, I'm coming with it!" Though senior snapper Brignone often operated at a disadvantage, because Carmon had a tendency to move ahead of the hike with no official watching. It's something he'll have to watch in real games come fall lest such aggressiveness draw a flag.

Make no mistake, while he does want to be a complete tackle Carmon understands how much added value he brings in this mammoth-middle man role. "Oh, it definitely doesn't hurt, because I'm challenge people to send me double-teams. That's what is going to make my money!" At the same time this is a big guy capable of making moves in the trenches…as some out-run Bulldog blockers could attest.

"You'd better ask these guys if I'm faster," boasts Carmon. "Because they know, I'm really faster than what the think I am. So anybody that thinks I'm just going to plug-up a hole is going to have to think again." And that is why it also bugs this Bulldog a bit to have his name often linked by media and fans with another SEC big body.

"That's why I don't like being compared to Terrance Cody. I feel as though I can be more agile, I can be more mobile than him right now at my stage than him. I don't like being compared because I know for a fact I can do more things than he did, and I'm trying to prove my point. I'm not saying I'm better than this guy because he's in the NFL and I'm trying to get there. Plus now he's playing for the Baltimore Ravens so I've really got to watch him, because I'm from Baltimore!

"But I feel I can take my game to the next level and be the most dominant player in the SEC this year."

Big talk but then this big guy believes he can back it all up. Another Bulldog, who took the junior college route before finding success on the Mississippi State defensive line, sees somebody doing everything demanded to be a big player. "He's finding that motivation, because he talks about going to the NFL," says senior defensive end Pernell McPhee. "I say ‘you're not going to go there if you you're out of shape, you have to get in shape and go hard every play'. I think he found that motivation." Naturally McPhee has his own motivations to get Carmon in college game-shape since the more opposing blockers devoted to the big guy in the middle, the less traffic between himself and the quarterback.

Diaz and Wilson won't over-work any defensive lineman, tackle or end, this season. Not with a solid two-deep coming out of spring, for that matter three-deep in a couple of slots. And Carmon isn't worried about who gets the first snap of any game or series.

"Really I'm not even thinking about starting. I'm just trying to know my role and do what I have to do for MSU to win. If I don't play any games as long as MSU wins I'm good with it."

Besides the ‘voluntary' lifting and running and drilling, there are more mandatory duties for Carmon this summer. He had to hurry from Wednesday's morning interview to class. Make that, classes. "8:00 and 10:00," he noted. "I'm taking computer applications and coaching softball, but next term…" A sentence the interview doesn't let Carmon finish, interrupting to point out the rather impressive contrast of those particular courses. Carmon appreciates the humor.

"That's the classes they put me in. But next semester is when I have three real classes going on towards my major." And by the way, he adds, "Oh, man, coaching softball is horrible, it's really hard! Computer applications isn't that hard, it's cool." All said with a big, I'm-having-fun-with-you grin. Of course if one really wants to see Carmon smile, mention the coming season when he gets to show his skills on a SEC stage.

"I can't wait for August to get here and we put them pads on and get to rolling. Because we're going to prove ourselves this year."


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