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FWTCT Football Spring Position Previews: Linebacker

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 01:  Deontae Skinner #51 and Johnthan Banks #13 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs tackle Tavarres King #12 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 01: Deontae Skinner #51 and Johnthan Banks #13 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs tackle Tavarres King #12 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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State has enjoyed success recently at the Linebacker position, as Bulldog alums Jamar Chaney, Chris White and K.J. Wright are all now playing on Sundays in the National Football League. Last season the dogs were in a bit of a rebuilding mode in the middle of the defense, after losing K.J. and Chris, who were anchors on the 2010 Gator Bowl edition of the team. In 2011, Junior Cameron Lawrence and Senior Brandon Wilson stepped up to fill their shoes, and didn't do too bad of a job, both finishing in the Top 10 in the SEC in tackles on the season.

Cameron Lawrence (MUST REMIND SELF HE IS NOT KEANU REEVES) is back and will be anchoring one of the 3 Linebacker positions, but who will fill the other two? We take a look at that question and more with the latest FWTCT Football Spring Position Preview: Linebacker.

Returning Players

Cameron Lawrence 6'3", 230 lbs Sr. Coldwater, MS (Magnolia Heights)
Chris Hughes 6'1", 225 lbs Jr. Mobile, Al (Davidson)
Christian Holmes 6'1", 225 lbs. So. Puckett, MS (Puckett)
Benardrick McKinney 6'5", 235 lbs RFr. Tunica, MS (Rosa Fort)
Deontae Skinner 6'2", 245 lbs Jr. Macon, MS (Noxubee County)
Ferlando Bohanna 6'0", 225 lbs So. Memphis, TN (Whitehaven)
Matthew Wells 6'2", 215 lbs So. Monticello, MS (Lawrence County)

Key Members to Replace

Brandon Wilson | 94 Tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 FF, .5 Sack

Brandon Maye | 41 Tackles, 3 TFL

Jamie Jones | 6 Tackles, 1 TFL

Key Members Returning

Cameron Lawrence | 123 Tackles, 6 TFL, 2 Sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF

Deontae Skinner | 69 Tackles, 9 TFL, 2 FF

Matthew Wells | 36 Tackles, 5 TFL

Newcomers to Watch

Benardrick McKinney, Redshirt Freshman

Richie Brown, True Freshman (on campus in the fall)

Beniquez Brown, True Freshman (on campus in the fall)

2011 Position Performance

In 2011, State looked to be short at the linebacker position after losing K.J. Wright and Chris White. Junior Cam Lawrence and unknown Senior Brandon Wilson stepped in to fill the void though, and filled in somewhat nicely for the pair. Numbers wise, the linebackers didn't miss a beat as Brandon Wilson totaled 94 tackles at the MLB position while Cam Lawrence added up an impressive 123 tackles. Deontae Skinner, the talented youngster from just down the road in Noxubee County, also stepped in and contributed 69 tackles.

On the whole, I felt like this unit outperformed expectations in 2011. Brandon Wilson came virtually out of nowhere (was a walk-on), and filled in well in the middle. Cam Lawrence was Cam: scrappy, high-motored and was flying from sideline to sideline making plays. I thought Deontae Skinner really stepped up and contributed well last fall, and he and Matthew Wells, a converted running back, did a good job splitting time at OLB.

What to Expect in 2012

Going into 2012, it looks like State will be experienced on the edges with a new face in the middle. Conventional wisdom says Cam Lawrence and Deontae Skinner will man the outside edges, with the MLB wide open for the taking this spring and in practice heading up to the first game. Chris Hughes is also well in the mix to get a starting OLB spot, and could oust Skinner at the OLB spot opposite Cam. Hughes has a ton of talent, and probably could have been a starter last year had it not been for legal troubles.. He played a good bit during his true freshman season of 2010, but was limited to mostly special teams this past year. If he can get these issues behind him, he could be a great player for MSU.

At the MLB position, it looks to be a two man race between Ferlando Bohanna and Benardrick McKinney. Benardrick McKinney is a guy who has come on strong this spring, and with him growing into his 6'5" frame and learning the playbook a bit better in his redshirt season, he may be working his way into a starting position for this fall. Bohanna is a talented Sophomore out of Memphis who recorded 9 tackles as a reserve last season. Coaches expect big things out of him, and he too could easily man the starting MLB position this fall. All of that said of course without Richie Brown on campus until August. I doubt Richie starts as a Freshman, but I'm sure the talented uncle from Long Beach will make a name for himself in a hurry in the middle. An interesting note for the MLB position: Senior Brandon Wilson could have come back for another season in 2012. Since the talented walk-on had not fulfilled his full eligibility, he could have elected to play another season, but chose to move on to the working world. I know Dan Mullen would have loved to have Brandon back for one more season, but you can't blame the young man for wanting to get started on his career, and we wish him the best professionally.

Overall, this unit looks good going into 2012. As long as the younger players continue to develop, the linebacking corps could improve with increased depth. And I would look for big things in the middle with either Bohanna or McKinney starting. Could be another solid group of LB's for Coach Wilson's defense in 2012.

Next up in the FWTCT Football Spring Position Previews is Defensive Line. Look for the DL preview post to go up first thing in the morning.