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August 3, 2011In April, Derek Sherrod became Mississippi State's first NFL Draft first round selection since 1996 when he was selected by the Green Bay Packers.
Sherrod's departure leaves some big shoes to fill at left tackle for the Bulldogs. Two players, James Carmon and Blaine Clausell, are vying for the vacancy although neither has played a college snap at that position.
Carmon, a 6-foot-7, 315-pound senior, came to MSU last year from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where he was rated the nation's top JUCO defensive tackle. He appeared in all 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2010 earning three starts recording eight tackles.
The Baltimore, Md., native began making the transition to offense during State's Gator Bowl preparations in December although he did not fully make the swap until the spring.
"Everything is going real good with the change," Carmon said. "I wish I could've played (offensive tackle) coming out of high school and junior college so I could have had the upper hand on it. But me coming in short-handed is not an excuse for me. I'm just going out there with my team every day to compete and make my team and myself better."
But Carmon is not totally new to playing offensive line. In high school he was named all-state, all-metro and all-county in both his junior and seniors seasons but that was his last experience on that side of the ball until now.
"I had to knock off a lot of rust," Carmon said. "In high school we were down blocking the man in front of you. Now we've got all types of blocks where everybody is moving around. I've never seen anything like it but it's pretty fun though. I'm going to pick it up and get it."
If Carmon's work ethic is any indication of how hard he will work to pick up the position then the Bulldogs should be fine. He arrived at Mississippi State at 370-pounds and has shed 55-pounds in a year and a half.
"370 pounds, that was too big in the SEC," Carmon said.
Clausell came to MSU as a two-star prospect in January 2010 and redshirted his first season on campus. Unlike Carmon, he has had the luxury of two springs and an entire season of practicing behind Sherrod to sit back and learn.
"I've learned the offense real good," Clausell said. "I'm confident going into the season knowing my rules and stuff. I've gotten better at my technique so I guess I've gotten a little bit more confident."
The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder has also concentrated in the weight room since his arrival in Starkville as well.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot stronger and gotten my weight up now," Clausell said. "I'm just ready to play football."
Despite the competition between the two heading into fall camp both concede that they remain friends and work together to help the team.
"We definitely have to (work together) because we're still on the same team," Carmon said. "If I'm going to be the starter, he's going to be coming in and playing. If he's going to be the starter then I'm going to be coming in and playing. We're both going to have to help each other out throughout the process."
While the Bulldogs will have inexperience at left tackle, they do have the advantage of two seniors in the trenches with plenty of battles in the SEC. Senior right tackle Addison Lawrence is not concerned about the other bookend position.
"I think we will be fine at the left tackle position," Lawrence said. "We've got James Carmon, who is of course great and then we've got Blaine Clausell. Either way if one of those guys gets hurt the other can step right in."
Senior Quentin Saulsberry, who has started at four of the five positions on the line the last three seasons, breaks down the left tackle battle and seems to give the slight edge to Carmon due to his game experience.
"Blaine, I still consider him a young guy," Saulsberry said. "June (Carmon), he's played the game, played against the offense, so he kind of knows what's going on and what has to be done."
Fall camp opens for the Bulldogs on Thursday and all eyes will be on both Carmon and Clausell to see who will start in the opener against Memphis on Sept. 1.
"This is where the competition is going to heat up right here," Clausell said.