Left Tackle Battle Will Go Down to the Wire

Mississippi State opens its 2011 football season in 143 days, on Sept. 1 at Memphis. Dan Mullen hopes to have his left tackle situation figured out by, say, Aug. 31.

The candidates:

James Carmon (6-foot-7, 330 pounds) is a senior who played defensive tackle last season but switched to offense during Gator Bowl prep.

Blaine Clausell (6-7, 295) was Derek Sherrod‘s backup last year, which means he didn’t get used on game day and took a redshirt his freshman year.

So who has the edge in this ongoing battle to protect Chrls Relf‘s blind side? Depends on what day it is. Or what play.

“You’ll sit there and you’ll see, OK, he’s kind of taking the lead, and then the other one catches up, or guy (No.) 1 makes a little stupid error that they kind of put themselves right back, falling back and forth with each other,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said. “It’s going to be a good fight.”

Each player has his own strengths. Carmon, obviously, is a physical specimen and has a lot of natural ability. But he’s still trying to learn the offense as well as the intricacies of playing the position. Hevesy said Carmon can no longer be, to use his word, a renegade.

“It’s got nothing to do with physically; he’s very gifted,” Hevesy said. “It’s mentally turning over where defensive linemen are in a sense renegades – keep your hand around and run as fast as you can, play as fast as you can, go. Here there’s discipline, there’s a lot of discipline and focus through techniques and fundamentals and assignments that he has to focus and get done.”

Clausell isn’t exactly small, and he has the advantage of being in the offense a full year and learning from perhaps the best left tackle in the country.

“The biggest thing is they’re both very, very talented,” said Hevesy. “One’s a senior mentally, and body-wise one’s a freshman. The one thing is they’re both really learning offense, they’re learning college offense, they’re learning the speed they’ve got to play.”

From what I saw during spring practices, Carmon got the most first-team snaps, and ideally he would be able to fill that role for a season to allow for Clausell’s continued development. But chances are, both will play, and Hevesy said he’d have no problem with that.

Mullen said both tackles looked good during Saturday’s scrimmage, and he’s in no hurry to resolve the question of who will start.

“They have 29 more practices (in August) to improve,” he said. “We’ll figure that out probably the (Wednesday) night before the Memphis game who plays the first snap.”