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March 30, 2011

Feeling more at home

Including this spring, Mississippi State rising junior Cameron Lawrence has worked at five different positions in all three phases of the game; offense, defense, and special teams. But nearly three weeks into his latest position, the Bulldog linebacker is feeling more comfortable.

Last year, Lawrence started several games at sam linebacker where he had 34 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack, and he forced one fumble. But this spring he is lining up at will linebacker.

"It was definitely a change for me," said the 6-foot-2 Lawrence. "At sam linebacker, you are out in space a little more and you have to cover receivers. So they moved me to will linebacker to let me fit the run a little more and I am loving that. It is more of just downhill running and that is what I like to do.

"I am 228 pounds now and I feel pretty good at that weight. I feel like I am moving pretty good at that weight and you can't be too light battling those big boys down in the trenches."

Of course, like the rest of his linebacker mates, the goal for all of them is to digest the assignments for all three linebacker positions. Naturally having played at sam last year, Lawrence already has a leg up with that learning curve.

"Yea, that is an advantage and I try to be a well-rounded athlete," said Lawrence. "Learning all three spots is something that will help my game out. Coach (Geoff) Collins wants us to learn all the positions. I can probably play them both and I have even played some mike this spring and hadn't done that in awhile. But I feel comfortable at will and sam but who knows."

From a defensive standpoint, it is no secret that the MSU linebackers have drawn much of the attention this spring and entered with a few question marks. After all, the Bulldogs started a trio of seniors in 2010 at times and only Lawrence returns with any starting experience.

"K.J. Wright and Chris White were big time leaders for us last year on defense," said Lawrence. "We really learned a lot from them. But I feel once they left, a bunch of younger guys have stepped up and filled their shoes. We are just out there playing with a chip on our shoulders and trying to show everybody that we are going to be alright as a group."

Lawrence also pointed out another positive factor with the Bulldog linebacker and that centers around those big bodies in front of them. While MSU does have to replace three starting linebackers, the likes of Fletcher Cox, Josh Boyd and Jeff Howie are back at the tackle slots.

Plus, the Bulldogs return experience at defensive end with Sean Ferguson, Devin Jones, Shane McCardell and Trevor Stigers.

"Oh, they help tremendously," said Lawrence. "This is a team sport and it makes our job easier when we got when we have two of the best defensive tackles (Cox and Boyd) in the nation, which is the way I see it. They are experienced players and a tremendous help to the linebackers. They are helping us all with our new journey."

And for Lawrence, it's a journey that has gone by quicker than he ever imagined. He graduated early from Magnolia Heights and enrolled at Mississippi State in the spring of 2009. During his first-ever spring session, Lawrence lined up at quarterback and receiver before eventually moving to safety as a true freshman.

Yes, he is still changing positions but believes he has finally found a home at will linebacker. And his production thus far this spring has proven just that.

"It really is and I know people say all the time that time flies," said Lawrence. "But it does seem like just the other day I was out there throwing the ball around in a red jersey. But it's all good and it feels good to be a junior now."


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