Miss. State Bulldogs shuffle lineup

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – James Carmon tried a new position on for size Friday, and he likes the way it fits.
Mississippi State returned to the practice fields to begin preparations for the Gator Bowl, and coach Dan Mullen decided to mix things up a bit. He moved Carmon, a 6-foot-7, 345-pound junior, from defensive tackle to left offensive tackle.
That’s the spot currently held down by All-SEC senior Derek Sherrod. Mullen wants to see if Carmon can take over that position next season; Sherrod’s current backup is a freshman, Blaine Clausell.
“It’s definitely a different mentality,” Carmon said. “I really like to attack. That’s why I love defense so much, I like to attack people. I like to hit people, but this is more of a thinking game.”
Carmon, a transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, played in all 12 games this year but made only eight tackles. He said he feels he’s a better fit as a nose guard in a 3-4 scheme, but MSU’s defense is based in a 4-3.
MSU has good depth on the inside of the defensive line, so losing Carmon shouldn’t hurt too much on that side of the ball. That’s one reason Mullen woke Carmon up Friday morning and told him to drop by his office to talk.
“He was asking me, ‘How would you feel about playing left tackle?’ I said, ‘Coach, I already know how I feel about that. I’ve been wanting to do it.’ ”
Carmon said Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy have actually been joking with him all season about moving to offense. Now that it’s more serious, Carmon has given it thought and thinks it will work out for all involved.
“I feel like I can take this position over and play longer where I need to go at in the NFL,” Carmon said. “I think I’ll be doing this a long time.”
Carmon, who will play at defensive tackle in the bowl game, is wise enough to know that emulating Sherrod and picking his brain will make him better. And Sherrod said Carmon’s a good student.
“He’s going to listen to you and try to pick up really fast,” Sherrod said. “It’s a new position for him, so he’s just eager to learn. He went out there and practiced pretty well. It seems pretty promising for him.”
Heavens takes the lead
– As injuries continue to thin out MSU’s receiving corps, more responsibility falls on the shoulders of sophomore Brandon Heavens.
Senior Leon Berry was lost to an ankle injury in October and is questionable for the Gator Bowl, and leading receiver Chad Bumphis is done for the season after breaking his collarbone in the Egg Bowl.
“Today was mostly me and Chris Smith just getting the guys in their places and stuff, telling them the plays and stuff,” Heavens said. “So I’m kind of trying to be the leader now since Chad and Leon are out.”
Heavens has caught 20 passes for 304 yards, which is third on the team, and two touchdowns. He, Smith (20 catches, 218 yards, one TD) and Arceto Clark (22 catches, 317 yards, two TDs) are all sophomores and are also the most experienced receivers on the field now.
“We’re all young, we’ve all been with each other for a long time, so I think everybody’s just going to have to step up for Chad and for Leon’s offense,” Heavens said.
Mullen said he won’t shake up the receiving corps. He had moved cornerback Maurice Langston to receiver after Berry went down, but the senior soon moved back to defense and has stayed there.
“We still have depth,” Mullen said. “Sam Williams is starting to get a lot more healthy, and Michael Carr now has a year under his belt, so he’s a veteran. So we should be OK depth-wise.”
Indoors today
– MSU practices at 12:45 p.m. today and will stay inside as inclement weather rolls in. The Bulldogs, who went helmets-only Friday, will put on shoulder pads for today’s session and then go in full pads Sunday.
“This week right here, from now until Thursday is a lot about development,” Mullen said. “Some of our older guys, they’re going to get a lot of individual work, but when we go to team periods, I want to see some of these young offensive linemen get in there and have to step up and start getting ready to play.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or
brad.locke@djournal.com.