March 4, 2011 11:13:00 AM
David Miller -
STARKVILLE -- James Carmon isn''t afraid to say he has money on his mind.
Most players entering their senior season are contemplating what they need to do to make it to the NFL.
Most seniors aren''t switching positions.
Carmon is doing that and then some for Mississippi State. The 6-foot-7, 330-pounder is attempting to lock down the starting left tackle spot after playing defensive tackle last season.
A former standout nose guard at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Carmon hasn''t played offensive line since high school.
He had eight tackles and one pass breakup in his first season in Starkville. Carmon felt he wasn''t a good fit in MSU''s scheme, which utilizes multiple fronts and rotates as many as five tackles. Carmon felt he was more of a fit in a traditional nose guard role in a 3-4 defense.
Sensing his time was running out to make a splash in college, Carmon moved to offensive tackle during bowl preparations but played defense in the Gator Bowl.
The move to the offensive line allowed him to learn from All-American Derek Sherrod and to learn what he needs to do to have a chance to get to the next level.
Sherrod, who played left tackle and protected the blind side for quarterbacks Tyson Lee, Chris Relf, and Tyler Russell in the past three years, is a projected first-round pick in the NFL draft in April.
"I got a family to feed," Carmon said Thursday. "Six-seven, 330 with feet like this ... it should be on its way to the NFL somewhere. But I got to work hard first."
Carmon still talks to Sherrod to get tips. He joked he would call him Thursday night to ask him about protections.
The man he once called "walking money" had one thing Carmon doesn''t heading into his senior year: Experience.
Though he didn''t start as a freshman in 2007, Sherrod logged snaps at right tackle in MSU''s Liberty Bowl run.
"Derek''s perfect with everything: Steps, his reads, his keys, his slide calls," Carmon said. "As I watch him on film, I can kind of imitate him and all his steps he does so I can be just like him. I know where he''s going at (NFL). I''m trying to do the same thing."
Carmon is listed as the starter at left tackle on the spring depth chart, though coach Dan Mullen admitted the depth chart means little.
Learning to kick-slide, to play with his left hand on the ground, and to keep proper balance out of his stance are easier habits to form than learning the playbook and the intricacies of the position.
Carmon''s move to tackle is permanent barring injuries at defensive tackle.
"Just the learning curve of getting used to the offense, learning the offense, and not just knowing what to do but how to do it and how to utilize the offense to the best of his ability (are the biggest things)," Mullen said. "He has all the talent in the world. It''s gonna be working on his fundamentals (and) understanding the offense and how to use the offense to help him be a better player."
Carmon has been a sponge when it comes to learning from senior teammates Addison Lawrence and Quentin Saulsberry, who are multi-year starters who''ve spent extra time in the offseason trying to get Carmon up to speed.
Saulsberry can relate to Carmon''s challenge. As a redshirt freshman in 2008, Saulsberry started at the unfamiliar position of right tackle. He struggled, working through freshman growing pains and playing a new position.
This season, Saulsberry will move to center after playing guard the past two seasons.
Saulsberry learned to slow down, and he hopes to be able to convey that to Carmon.
"Don''t do too much thinking," Saulsberry said. "When he''s in the meeting room, you can tell the way he talks back to you he knows what he''s doing. All he has to do is put it all in one and just do it. Just go out there, breathe, and don''t think so much. If you mess up, we''ll just go back into the film room and correct the error."