The effort didn't start in the spring but immediately at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
"Being a leader kind of starts in the offseason, earning the respect of the other players," said Cameron Lawrence, who has played in 23 games during his two-year career. "How I see it is the linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense and you have to take charge. It's not so much a vocal aspect in the offseason. I just went as hard as possible every single day and the other players saw me do that. And I don't believe that went unnoticed because they started to respect me and that carries over onto the field."
He learned how to be a leader from two of the best, K.J. Wright and Chris White, two linebackers he played side by side with the past two seasons.
"Playing side by side with K.J. (Wright) and Chris (White), they really taught us a lot," said Lawrence, who has recorded 48 tackles during his first two seasons.
Now, with both gone, Lawrence knows it's time for other linebackers to step forward. And he feels confident that they will do that.
"I feel like with them leaving, we have stepped up and filled their shoes pretty well," said Lawrence. "(Seniors) Brandon Wilson (and Jamie Jones) got a lot of playing time but we also have some young guys. We aren't going to have a lot of experience, but that is to our advantage because I feel like we have something to prove. I feel we are playing with a chip on our shoulder."
But playing with a chip on your shoulder can only get you so far. You also need talent and Cameron sees that in abundance from this young group of linebackers that includes the likes of sophomores Chris Hughes and Deontae Skinner and redshirt freshmen Ferlando Bohanna, Christian Holmes and Matthew Wells.
"I feel like the experience is one thing that sets them apart (from K.J. Wright and Chris White), but they have several more years and I see them being right up there with them as far as the talent goes," said Lawrence.
He's also seen their work ethic continue to improve.
"When they first got on campus they really didn't know how hard they had to go but I'm starting to see that now," said Lawrence. "And this offseason I have seen that from a bunch of them. Now, it's really just a matter of them learning their stuff and feeling comfortable with it. (Once they do) they are going to be good players, all of them."
And he expects to be a better player as well this season thanks to two years of experience.
"I wouldn't say I know everything because I am steadily learning every single day but I do feel more comfortable in my playing time," said Lawrence. "My freshman year I played three different positions in the spring. I was just trying to stay with the program back then. But now, I feel comfortable on the field. Now, I'm just trying to impact other players."
Physically, one major difference in the junior linebacker is his new look, sans the long hair. He explained why he decided to cut his hair after wearing it long his first two seasons at State.
"My freshman year I thought I would grow my hair long (because) we had to keep it clean cut in high school so when I got here I thought I would let it go," said Lawrence. "But now I've changed it up; a new year, a new look is what I tell everybody."
Could there actually be another story behind why he really cut it?
"I'm more aerodynamic now; I think I'm pushing 4.5 (in the forty yard dash)," said Lawrence, with a laugh.