Hartman: Penn State linebackers should help Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2013 - 12:37 AM

Draft picks Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti have great skills, says their college defensive coordinator.

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Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti, center, celebrates with teammates after the beat Northwestern 39-28 on Oct. 6, 2012

Photo: Gene J. Puskar, Associated Press

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John Butler, a linebackers coach and special teams coordinator under former Gophers coach Tim Brewster and now defensive coordinator at Penn State, is convinced the two Nittany Lions linebackers drafted by the Vikings — Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti — will turn out to be outstanding picks.

“Hodges is very athletic, an excellent game-day performer,” Butler said. “He has good ball skills, good range, a very athletic linebacker.

“He has excellent speed. He has great game speed. He really, though, can track and trace the ball. He was a very active player for us. Great in man coverage, great coverage, very good in special teams, excellent all-around out in space. I don’t know what the Vikings have [at each position], but he’s ready to play. I think they got a good one.”

Mauti’s college career was marred by three ACL tears, but Butler said the Vikings are getting a great kid. If he stays healthy, he also could be a great contributor. Butler described Mauti as a standout, too, but a little different from Hodges.

“Mauti was a first-team All-American nationally, in some of the votings, and had a great season in the 10 games that he played [in 2012],” Butler said. “He was a heart-and-soul guy, can play the run, can play the pass, can rush the passer. Very, very good player. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best.”

Butler said he didn’t know Mauti’s condition at the present time because the linebacker has been training on his own, but said he believes Mauti will be ready for training camp.

Butler said there is no question the teammates were two of the best college linebackers in the country.

“I think their performances speak to that and hopefully they can continue that into the NFL,” he said. “Both of them were big-time performers against pretty good competition. I think they stack up pretty well against any other pair.”

Butler said Mauti hurt his knee in Penn State’s game against Indiana, the second-to-last of the season.

“He was healthy the whole season, got hurt in the 11th game,” Butler said. “He was an All-American, voted by the writers and the coaches. He had a great year.”

Butler was asked to compare how the two played.

“Gerald played out in space a little more and Mike Mauti was more of an inside linebacker, he’s a little bit bigger,” he said. “But pretty much they’re very similar players. Both are good kids. Mauti was the leader and the face of the program, and Gerald was on that leadership committee, too. But Mike was probably the main leader on the team.”

Butler said the program has overcome most of the problems following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and trial.

“You know it [was hard] early and then because we had good leaders like Mauti and good leaders like Gerald, the guys responded,” he said. “We got a good coaching staff, got a bunch of good players. It made it easier to kind of overcome it all because we had a lot of good players.”

Butler said he is looking forward to coming back here when Penn State plays the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 9.

Kahn’s picks flounder

If the Timberwolves are to make the playoffs next season, they will have to do better in the NBA draft.

Since taking over as Timberwolves general manager in 2009, David Kahn has made or obtained seven first-round draft selections.

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