With the season having long-since segued into garbage time, the fanbase has been clamoring to see more of the Vikings’ intriguing young players. One guy people are especially curious about is Michael Mauti, the late-round draft pick out of Penn State.
Good news for Mauti fans: the Vikes are reportedly planning to get a look at the linebacker in the season finale Sunday vs. Detroit. The plan is to have Mauti rotate with semi-disgruntled starting Mike Erin Henderson. Audie Cole was the starter at Mike but he is out for the finale after suffering a high ankle sprain.
Why so much interest in Mauti? I think it’s the old potential steal factor that has people so enamored of this guy. Mauti has lots of talent, but his college career was derailed by injury, and that’s why he ended up so low in the draft. But now the hope is that Mauti can beat the injury bug and realize some of the great potential he flashed in college on those rare occasions when he wasn’t hurt.
Mauti has already somewhat beaten the odds just by getting on the field at all. Certain experts actually predicted that he would end up on the shelf for the entire season with knee issues but he worked hard and got himself in good enough shape to not only compete in camp but win a spot as a special teams guy and backup linebacker.
Things have gone so well for Mauti this season developmentally that, had it not been for an unfortunate knee tweak suffered playing special teams in the Seattle game, he may well have gotten the promotion to starting Mike ahead of Audie Cole when Erin Henderson had his little unfortunate episode.
Unfortunately for Mauti, Cole seized his opportunity by winning the Mike spot. Now with Cole hurt again, it’s Mauti’s chance to get some reps.
So, Michael Mauti fans, now you have at least one good reason to watch Sunday’s game. It’s easy to root for the young man, the way he’s worked. And frankly it’s getting hard to root for Erin Henderson, given some of the attitude stuff that’s cropped up with him.
If Mauti lives up to his potential, he would seem to represent an upgrade over Henderson…in more ways than one. But the injury thing is going to hang over Mauti’s head as long as he’s out there. I’m hoping it works out with him, but I’ve got to temper my enthusiasm a little, given his history.