Clearly linebackers like Jarvis Jones and Manti Te'o have garnered much of the publicity in the college ranks at their positions. Both are likely first-round picks in the 2013 NFL draft, but where does Penn State's Michael Mauti stack up?
Mauti's rise to becoming the team's defensive leader parallels that of quarterback Matt McGloin. He's not getting the same attention that some of his peers at the position are but ESPN.com has him ranked as the fifth-best inside linebacker prospect in the draft.
So here's how Mauti stacks up against the best college linebackers when it comes to tackling, speed, pass coverage, pass rushing and intangibles.
With 90 tackles already this season, Te'o is clearly at the head of this trio in this department.
Mauti isn't the greatest wrap-up tackler. He's very effective at being in position, thanks largely to his ability to diagnose plays, but he can miss tackles.
Te'o doesn't miss often, whereas Jones has similar tendencies to Mauti, leaving his feet on occasion rather than stand firm on the ground and driving through the ball-carrier with his legs.
Mauti also isn't known for his power, whereas the somewhat undersized Jones can surprise people with the force of his tackling.
Well, it's safe to say that none of these three linebackers would be a top priority on the Al Davis big board.
None of the trio possess blazing speed for their position, but they're still all above average. They're all excellent at making plays sideline to sideline against the run and have been known to catch a few running backs from behind.
Mauti may be the fastest of the bunch, but that may also have to do with his smaller size compared to Jones and Te'o.
Te'o change of direction may be the best of the three, whereas Mauti isn't the most agile of linebackers.
Again, there is no glaring difference among these three linebackers. All of them are three-down athletes, capable of staying in on passing situations.
Jones is used primarily to get to the quarterback since he's a 3-4 outside linebacker. He does have some skills dropping into coverage, but that isn't his strength. What he lacks in ability to drop into coverage he typically makes up for in closing speed.
Because of his ability to cover the field, Te'o is great in underneath zone coverage. While he's not going to get a ton of picks, he still manages to break up passes and stick with tight ends in man coverage. Just don't put him on a back.
Mauti is very good at reading quarterbacks and making a play on the ball. Like Te'o, he doesn't have the greatest hands, but he can certainly break up plays. He's not quite as good at covering in the flats in zone coverage as Te'o, however.
This is where it's hardest to compare the three linebackers.
Jones is a 3-4 OLB, whose primary job is to get to the quarterback on passing situations. He knows how to get around the edge of the offensive line and close on the quarterback—something Te'o and Mauti just aren't accustomed to doing.
So it's probably safer to compare those two and leave Jones out of the discussion for now.
Te'o is a relentless pass-rusher. He's far better at getting off blocks, which helps him get into opposing offenses backfields and pressure the quarterback. He also has good timing and his speed helps him out tremendously.
Mauti doesn't have the repertoire to beat blockers as consistently as the Notre Dame star does. He has the speed to get hits on the passer, but he isn't as capable of shedding blocks, which limits him slightly in this department.
Again it's hard to differentiate between Te'o, Mauti and Jones in this category. All three are leaders of their respective defenses in terms of both production and motivation.
Te'o obviously gets a lot of media attention for his style and heart. He's the unquestioned leader of the Notre Dame defense. If you see a defensive highlight of a Notre Dame game, he's likely involved.
The same can be said of Mauti. He's the heart and soul of the Nittany Lions defense. Just when Linebacker U needed someone to step up in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it was none other than Mauti, who was more than outspoken about sticking with his teammates. He has an ability to lead and inspire.
Overall, Mauti isn't as polished or talented as Jones and Te'o and doesn't get as much attention for his production. But he can certain stick with them in most facets and skills and may be the best leader among this group.