Image source: Penn State Athletics
The defense starts in the middle of the field, where Michael Mauti has been lauded as one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten
Phil Harrison of College Football News says of Mauti, "He has great vision and can string out plays from sideline to sideline better than almost anyone in the conference. With the departure of Chris Colasanti, the coaching staff will be looking for Mauti to assert himself as a leader, and he has the skill set to do it."
It sounds nearly identical to the descriptions of some of the better linebackers over the past decade, including Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor and Sean Lee.
The middle linebacker has become the iconic position at Penn State, and it is by no mistake. Penn State recruits well for the position, and they develop players that may not be the flashiest of the bunch (LaVar Arrington aside), but they always seem to be the kind of players who just have a nose for the football, know how to track it down and find themselves in position to make a play.
Mauti is no different.
He will be looked to as a leader on defense and will have plenty to live up to, but he appears to have the character to do so. He has battled injuries and has been on the field to witness first-hand some of the down moments for the defensive unit. The change in defense begins with him.
In 11 games last season, Mauti recorded 67 total tackles, 18 for a loss of yardage.