Miss. State football sophomore perfect fit for new hybrid position

STARKVILLE – Cameron Lawrence came to Mississippi State as a quarterback, then worked at receiver because of a numbers shortage there, then was moved to safety.
Now, he’s at strongside linebacker, and it looks like he’s finally found a home.
All that bouncing around occurred in a year’s time. After a stellar career at Magnolia Heights in Senatobia – where he played quarterback, was listed as the third-best defensive back in the state by Rivals.com, and earned second-team all-state honors as a linebacker – Lawrence enrolled early at MSU last year.
So he went through spring practices and found the playing field last fall, mostly on special teams. He played in all 12 games and made 14 tackles.
After the season, coach Dan Mullen asked Lawrence if he’d like to play linebacker.
“Shoot, yeah,” Lawrence replied.
In the schemes of new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, he’s a perfect fit there. The “Sam” linebacker, as it’s called, is kind of a hybrid linebacker/safety position that often has to handle receivers and other skill players.
“It was just more of a natural fit,” Diaz said. “We may have always wanted someone faster at safety, but suddenly you put him at linebacker, and he’s more in terms of what we’re looking for.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Lawrence has added 20 pounds to his frame since joining the Bulldogs. That’ll certainly help him as he tries to help fill a hole at linebacker.
After the loss of middle linebacker Jamar Chaney, MSU moved Chris White from the weakside to the middle and K.J. Wright from the strongside to White’s old spot.
While Lawrence is listed on the post-spring depth chart as first string, he and senior Emmanuel Gatling are locked in a tight battle for the starting job.
“His biggest thing is he just needs at-bats,” Diaz said. “Because his instincts would really be his biggest deal. He can run, he’s tough, he’s an excellent hitter, a good tackler.”
Addison Lawrence knew about those strengths years ago. Cameron’s older brother, the Bulldogs’ starting right tackle, was curious as to why MSU’s coaches put him on offense.
“I knew he liked to tackle,” said Addison, a junior. “He was always more of a defensive guy, so when they brought him in at quarterback and at receiver, I kind of thought he was out of place.”
Cameron Lawrence said bouncing from one position to the next was frustrating.
“And I knew coach Mullen and the coaching staff would find a place for me,” he said. “I think they found it at linebacker.”
The Lawrence boys led Magnolia Heights to a state championship 2006 – Cameron was the quarterback, Addison a tight end. Now they get a chance to start together again, a prospect that excites them both.
“I know my parents would be excited; they’ve got somebody to watch at all times, offense and defense,” Addison said.
The brothers have gone up against each other in practices, and Addison said Cameron is “pretty slippery, hard to get a hold of.”
Cameron is absorbing as much as he can from White and Wright, the Bulldogs’ top two returning tacklers.
“They’re veterans, they’re really teaching me a lot,” Lawrence said. “I like it so far.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@djournal.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

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