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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Carmon leads way in search to replace Sherrod

     
    This time last spring, Dan Mullen was trying to figure out how to replace the most prolific runner in Mississippi State history — Anthony Dixon. Now, he and his team must replace, perhaps, the most effective and recognized left tackle in State’s history on the gridiron — Derek Sherrod.
    The two candidates? A redshirt freshman who has never played in a college game and a senior who has been playing on the defensive line for his entire career making the switch to offensive line.
    James Carmon, the senior, and Blaine Clausell, the freshman are listed as co-starters at left tackle on MSU’s spring depth chart.
    Carmon arrived in Starkville at 6’7″, 370 pounds after two years as defensive tackle at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Carmon was heavy in the rotation at defensive tackle last year, his first at MSU, but as the Bulldogs prepped for the Gator Bowl, he and Mullen discussed the possibility of him switching to left tackle.
    Carmon said he and Mullen agreed it was his best chance to make it to the NFL, and both certainly agreed they needed someone to fill in the hole left by Sherrod graduating.
    Now, Carmon is down to 320 pounds and is the favorite to open the season as the starter.
    “It’s a permanent move,” Mullen said. “All things going in the right direction, he’s going to be our starting left tackle.”
    Mullen admitted he does not put tons of stock into the depth chart, and he said it changes daily. However, the 6’7″, 305 pound Clausell said he was almost unhappy when he saw his name next to Carmon’s.
    “James, he’s got natural talent, so I can’t be disappointed I’m sharing the starting spot, just as long as I get to play and help the team out; that’s what I’m here for,” Clausell said. “I would love to start, but sometimes you’ve got to share that spot with somebody who’s got good skills. I think it’s good because we’ll always have somebody that’s fresh in.”
    Carmon has the size and pedigree to be a dominant left tackle, but he and his coaches have said he needs to learn the offense to be effective. Even Clausell said, if the season started next week, “I’m gonna have to say [I’d be the starter]. Not being cocky, but I’ve been around the system longer; I know more of the plays.”
    Carmon said he has to learn the plays, and offensive line coach John Hevesy said it is all about repetition.
    “Oh, he knows them,” Hevesy said. “I’ve been giving them to him. I can’t drill a hole in his head and pour it in. Once again, I tell him it’s muscle memory; it’s body movements. I hope he sits in his dorm room tonight going through plays, walking through plays in his head. It’s muscle learned.”
    Muscle memory may be the key, as Carmon said he often finds himself over-thinking plays.
    “For me right now, it’s probably like a two steps forward one step back, because I’ll mess up on plays and stuff I know I’m supposed to do,” Carmon said. “Sometimes it has me thinking, and when I think, I mess up. When I go balls to the wall, I’m straight; I know what I’m doing.”
    Carmon said it has not been easy, particularly because he said the defense does not take it easy on him. He feels he has been doing all the right things, though. He said he has consulted Sherrod, worked with his senior teammates and his competition, Clausell, and spent extra time in the film room with Hevesy and others.
    Finally, Carmon said, the hard work appears to be paying dividends.
    “The chemistry is going good,” Carmon said. “Today, me and [offensive lineman] Gabe Jackson did something we were supposed to do for a long time, and we didn’t ever get it right. But today, we got it right a few times. We got it right down pat. It’s what we’re gonna keep doing. We’re gonna keep on grindin’.”
    Clausell said he and Carmon work together frequently and help each other when they can.
    The freshman also said Sherrod is like a brother to him and that he calls him three or four times per week. Despite preparing himself to be a potential first-round draft pick in April, Clausell said Sherrod takes the time to guide him through everything.
    Clausell knows he is the underdog in the competition, but he said he brings plenty to the field.
    “I’m that young guy who keeps his composure,” Clausell said. “I’m young; I’m not as strong as everybody else. There might be plays where I get beat, but I’m not gonna get down. I’m gonna keep my composure. I’m gonna come back next play, and my mindset is I’m not gonna let my man beat me. I’m not gonna let him get to the quarterback. I bring that kind of confidence to the table.”
    Hevesy said, if both play well, it could be a committee approach to replacing Sherrod.
    “Who’s gonna be the guy? It’s like anything,” Hevesy said. “Who’s gonna step up and be the starting left tackle? It’s no different than the question people had last year, who’s going to replace Anthony Dixon? Who’s going to replace Derek Sherrod? It might not be a single guy. It might take two of them. Who’s the guy that really wants the job, who’s going to take it, fundamentally, physically, mentally, every part of what it entails to take the job?”
    If Mullen is right, Carmon will be the starter, and the senior said his teammates tell him the same thing.
    “My teammates tell me, ‘Man, don’t get frustrated, because you just came over here. It’s springtime; why are you frustrated? You still got seven more months until we even kickoff anything.’ They just keep telling me every day, ‘Stay humble. You know you got it, you know you’re gonna get it, because everybody wants you over here. We want you to be our left tackle.'”

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    Carmon leads way in search to replace Sherrod