Blaine Clausell relishes the opportunity to be a starter, but it's not always been the most pleasant experience. As the redshirt freshman battles senior James Carmon to start at left tackle for Mississippi State, he has visions of gruff offensive line coach John Hevesy being at full volume.
"I've had nightmares about that," Clausell said. "I'm ready for it. It's criticism, but it's helping. The way he does it, it's going to make you work, because if you don't you're going to get tired of hearing the yelling and stuff."
Clausell stands 6-foot-7 and is listed at 295 pounds, although he told me he weighs 298. Either way, he's finally big enough to take on SEC defensive linemen. Besides getting bigger, Clausell was given explicit instructions from Hevesy about what to work on this summer.
"Confidence and footwork and staying low, those are the three things he told me I really need to work on," he said. "I've been working on it, me and James have been working on it. It's going to be a good battle this summer."
An interesting dynamic is at work here. Clausell came to MSU as an offensive lineman and backed up All-American Derek Sherrod last season. Carmon was a defensive lineman but moved over during Gator Bowl preparations.
How did Clausell react when coaches made that move?
"I was just like, all right, move somebody else over here, that's just going to make me have to work harder. And I took it and ran with it, and I've been working harder ever since they moved him over there. It really helped me get better, moving him over there, because I probably wouldn't have worked as hard as I have if I didn't have to compete for that spot."
Despite being in a heated competition, Clausell said the experience has brought him and Carmon closer. Clausell likes hanging around older guys anyway, trying to soak up whatever wisdom he can.
As has been noted many times, the left tackle starter might not be decided until the week of the season opener (Sept. 1 at Memphis), and perhaps not even then. Starting right tackle Addison Lawrence doesn't seem too concerned about it.
"We've got James Carmon, who's of course great, then we've got Blaine Clausell, so either way if one of those guys gets hurt, they'll step right in," Lawrence said. "I'm not really worried about the left tackle spot."