Lawrence came to Mississippi State as a 200-pounder who was described by his high school coach as a “linebacker in a quarterback’s body.” As added weight through his first two years on campus (watching his older brother, Addison, start on the offensive line), Bulldogs coaches could see it was only a matter of time before he took over as a defensive leader. Now he’s not only one of the team’s mainstays, but also a potential NFL strong-side linebacker and special teams contributor.
He was an all-state pick at linebacker as a senior, in addition to his quarterback duties, at Magnolia Springs High School (about three hours northwest of Starkville). Lawrence played all 12 games as a true freshman despite his slight build, making 14 tackles, mostly on special teams. He played 11 games as a reserve linebacker in 2010 (34 tackles , 2.5 for loss) before finally getting his chance to start as a junior. He led the Bulldogs with 123 tackles, six for loss, while forcing two fumbles, intercepting two passes and breaking up five others.
Versatile, instinctual player whose feet are always moving. Assignment-sure defender, maintains gap discipline. Has a constantly-running motor, throws his body around to make plays. Works hard to beat blocks of lineman and running backs with his hands, but will take on a lead block when needed. Out-quicks linemen, as well, attacking plays in the box. Gets through traffic, jumping over bodies to get to the ball. Possesses good agility in coverage, effective wrapping up in zone (with force) to limit yards after the catch. Mixes it up with tight ends off the line and should add value in man coverage. Likely contributor on special teams units with his hustle and tackling ability.
Still presents a lean build, needs to bulk up in pro weight program. Gives up significant weight and power to offensive linemen in the box, gets knocked off his route to the ball too easily. Possesses fair speed for his weight, but lacks the closing ability of other lean ‘backers. Drag-down tackler, not intimidating. Inconsistent breaking down quickly to grab ballcarriers, ends up on the ground when lunging for the tackle.
Lawrence came to Starkville as a skinny 200-pound linebacker, but has blossomed into a playmaker for the Bulldogs, leading the team with 123 tackles in 2011. The brother of former MSU starting offensive lineman Addison Lawrence plays with the intensity of a bigger player and is athletic enough to handle coverage duties as a Sam linebacker and make plays on special teams coverage units.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.