Change defines the spring season and as the first whistle blew for the start of Mississippi State spring football practice, change was the topic of conversation.
A major transformation that started during bowl practices last December was the 330-pound James Carmon on the opposite line of scrimmage.
Standing next to redshirt freshman offensive guard Damien Robinson during offensive line drills Thursday represented the physical proof to Carmon’s switch to left tackle for his final season of college football.
“It’s exciting because I’m going to work hard enough to get on the field somehow, someway and I truly believe this is where I best fit,” Carmon said.
In State’s first two-hour workout yesterday, Carmon was working on the opposite side of projected right tackle Addison Lawrence as the quarterbacks rotated every three plays during the team situational drills.
“I feel like I got a lot of the protections down but need to just understand the plays going forward,” Carmon said. “Repetition is how I’m going to learn and once I get the reps, I’ll get it down quick.”
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen gave the perfect coach answer when asked this week if the move was permanent.
“It’s permanent right now to me,” Mullen said. “A lot of it’s depth-based where we’re an injury or two away to not have a choice but to put him back.”
For Carmon, the move to offensive line is built around desperation to make a National Football League roster after he graduates this year.
“It’s permanent,” Carmon said, “I’m 330 pounds with the footwork and I got a family to feed. This has to work, has no choice but to work.”
Carmon had six tackles all of last season in 13 games at defensive tackle but went to Mullen to suggest a change to offensive line, a position he hadn’t experienced since his stint at Baltimore City College High School three years ago.
Mullen, who said he doesn’t pay attention to spring depth charts, said that if all goes according to plan Carmon will line up for the season opener on Sept. 3 at Memphis.
“The learning curve or knowing the offense and understand not just what to do but how to do it,” Mullen said when asked about his concerns over Carmon’s switch. “He has all the talent in the world to do it but it’s about his fundamentals and how to use the offense to be a better player.”
Mississippi State’s defensive changes on the first day without shoulder pads included defensive back Matthew Wells seeing snaps at linebacker for more passing situations to showcase his speed and athletic advantage after last year as a true freshman in the secondary.
“I thought he did a good job and he’s splitting time at certain position because that position is a like a bigger nickel so we’ll play Chris Hughes and Cameron Lawrence there this season,” MSU linebackers coach Geoff Collins said. “(Chris) will play in whatever position he can play because he wants to contribute now.”
It was the first day for Collins as he replaces Manny Diaz as the Bulldogs linebacker coach and must replace all three starting linebackers from last year’s squad that won the 2011 Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“It’s a competitive group that wants to prove they can play in the SEC and compliment the d-line we have that’s solid,” Collins said. “The first and second groups were making all the right checks and we put a lot of stuff in.”
Bulldogs new defensive coordinator Chris Wilson moved tackle Devin Jones outside to end to compensate for the loss of senior Sean Ferguson to a flu bug.
Also in the back four, the Bulldogs had defensive back Louis Watson playing at safety Thursday.
“They’re just baby-stepping right now because we aren’t in full pads yet so it’ll be a few weeks before we can make a full evaluation of certain players and positions,” Mullen said.
Mississippi State, which moved the practice debut up a day to miss some expected severe weather in the Starkville area today, will be back in action in a public practice session that’s open to the public Saturday morning.