Brown Tackles Task of Linebacker Leadership

Half-way into his varsity career, and already Beniquez Brown is acting like an old Dog. Talking like it. In fact, “I feel like it.”

No, he is not referring to having turned 22 in April. The ‘old’ is not chronology but character. Going into the junior season Brown finds himself accepting the label of leader. Whether in the linebacker meeting room, around the Bulldog defense in general, or for that matter for the entire team, 2015 is Brown’s time to take on larger responsibility.

Just ask the linebacker coach and defensive coordinator. “The experience of Beniquez Brown counts, obviously he’s further along than anybody else because of the reps he’s had,” Coach Manny Diaz said. “And he’s got such a mental capacity for learning the game.”

Combine the mind with a physique which is now reaching full maturity, factor in two conference campaigns including one starter season, and the obvious intangibles…and Mississippi State has one of the rising SEC stars for 2015. Possibly even the next league linebacker who will have to weigh the professional option come January.

And yes. Brown understands this is his year to set a team-tone as one of the leaders.

“My play, I feel I earned just really how I play. But with B-Mac leaving and all the other guys that we had I feel I have to be a more vocal leader. So I feel I’ve become a more vocal leader.”

Brown definitely leads the list of Bulldog linebackers. He started every 2014 game on the will-side and produced 62 tackles, second only to Benardrick McKinney. Both of course would have produced much better numbers if not for the regular rotation on defense. Regardless, in his own series Brown not only netted lots of regular tackles but scored a couple of sacks, 7.0 stops for losses, as well as two interceptions.

With buddy B-Mac moved on a year early to the NFL, the opportunities for greater feats is obvious. Or is it? Brown figures he’ll still end up sharing the stats with his fellow linebackers…because if he didn’t share then comrades middle linebacker Richie Brown and strong-sider Zach Jackson, or the younger alternates would take anyway.

“Basically we’ve all played with each other the last two years so there really were no 1s,” Brown said. “We all could go in at the same time. It’s having trust in one another and we feel whoever is on the field can play.”

Relax, Bulldog folk. Brown did not just announce that the now-disdained rotation system which worked well enough for two months of 2014 before sputtering at the end is still in effect. Nope, not at all. The MSU message is there are more linebackers ready to rock opponents around.

Gerri Green, J.T. Gray, a healthy Dez Harris, DeAndre Ward, and more… Maybe none are about to push the Brown Brothers out of their front-row seats in the linebacker meeting room. They are giving a healthy push in practice though, and obviously are the future as well.

“They play hard,” said B.Brown. “They’re going to give you 110 (percent) as far as effort. And just going into a new system, being under a new coach it’s different for them getting used to it. But as Coach Diaz tells them, you only can get better with me and Richie and Zach. We have that game experience so it’s easier for us to go. They’re catching on and like I say they’re getting better every day.”

Brown’s comment about new system applies just as much to the veterans as any redshirt or rookie. Maybe the few fourth-year linebackers or some third-year guys like both Browns recall Diaz from campus visits during the 2010 season. They haven’t played for him yet.

But…they absolutely love what they saw from the new ‘backer boss in spring ball.

Brown does not even have to go into any technical differences between Diaz and Geoff Collins, which are probably minor at most anyway. Even the attitude is not a radical change. The approach, now, that is being coordinated in a fresh way for 2015.

“Just really Coach Diaz is a real aggressive guy. He doesn’t want to sit back and watch things happen. He wants to attack the line of scrimmage. Just really be downhill defense. Coach Collins wants you to see the whole field, kind of bounce, bounce, watch things.

“Coach Diaz isn’t that guy, he wants us to attack things at the line of scrimmage. And he demands a lot out of us every day.”

Including these summer days. OK, so linebackers can’t go throw-and-catch on a July afternoon the way passers, runners, and receivers do. Though, anyone who has seen much of these Bulldog ‘backers knows their athletic gifts compare quite well to anyone on offense. Imagine what Brown can do if he jumps a route this fall and has just a little room to run it back, hey?

Regardless, Brown and gang will be back to running and lifting and working at whatever rules allow once the second summer semester resumes next week. And once camps begins on August 3, it seems safe to say Brown will act as if he was trying to win his starting job rather than just maintain status.

He’s got to be a leader now, remember. “And we have other guys on the team that are great leaders as well.” Brown just feels the responsibility more than most at this point. So…

“Really, no days off. Just make sure you come in and you work hard. Because if players see you down they’re going to go as you go. So every day I try to bring my A-game to practice. And I try to tell the other linebackers that the defense goes as we go. So make sure we all come to work every day.”


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