Top Louisiana linebacker checks out Norman

Mandeville, La. linebacker Michael Mauti talks about his recent visit to Norman.

MICHAEL MAUTI, LB, 6-2, 215, 4.6, MANDEVILLE, LOUISIANA:

JH: What did you think of your recent unoffical visit to Oklahoma?

MM: "I thought it was great. It was a lot better than I expected. My expectations were high, but I just didn't know that they would be that great. I guess I just underestimated the whole place — the program, and atmosphere and everything. I spent all that Friday with Coach (Brent) Venables and we toured the facilities and the campus and had a great time. We went everywhere meeting people.

"Then, that night I went out with a couple of players and we had a good time. They were just cool people and everybody that I met was just nice. Nobody was trying to push me like, you know, 'Come here dude,' and that kind of stuff. They were just telling me to do what was best for me. Everyone was just cool people and I liked the place. It was really cool."

JH: How many days were you in Norman?

MM: "I came in that Thursday Night and then stayed all Friday and left on Saturday."

JH: What perceptions did you have about Oklahoma before you took the visit?

MM: "I never really knew what OU or Oklahoma was like. I knew that it was flat, but I have never been to that part of the country. I knew that OU was big-time football, but that was about all I knew about it. As far as the people and the landscape, I really had no idea what OU was like. That is why I wanted to visit, because I didn't know. The visit really helped me out a lot as far as evaluating OU. It was good for that."

JH: What did you learn about OU's program that you didn't know before?

MM: "Coach (Bob) Stoops' golf game actually got cancelled because of the rain, so we just went into his office and he opened up this big chest full of all his bowl watches and championship rings. He had Big 12 Championship rings, and what was so impressive is how much they win. OU wins all the time. They know how to do it. It is just a good atmosphere and certainly something that I would like to be a part of."

JH: What other schools have you been to unofficially?

MM: Right now I have only been to LSU and OU. LSU is easy because it is only an hour away. I went to a Junior Day and visited a practice. That was cool, but being so close I know what they are all about because they are right here. I am planning on visiting Florida in June and then Penn State at the end of June."

JH: You got to know Coach Venables a little bit better than just talking to him on the phone or through text messages. What did you think of him?

MM: "I thought he was a great guy. He is non-stop the whole day. I thought he was going to wind down as the day went on. It was four o'clock and we finally got into the meeting room and I thought he was going to wind down a little bit. But he just got more excited and he just kept going the whole day non-stop. I thought he was just a cool guy. He was nice and easy to talk to and he gets along with his players.

"I think the most important thing is the relationship that exists between the players and coaches. I am talking about the player's opinion, not just the public opinion. That is what is going to matter the most because the players actually have to go through it. The players talked about him (Venables) in a very positive manner. They all had stories about him and he just sounds like a great guy. I am looking forward to maybe working with him the next year or year and a half."

JH: Did you get a chance to see Norman or did you see primarily the campus?

MM: "I didn't get that far of campus, but I did get around the town a little bit. During the day, we drove around a little bit and I really liked it. It had a little bit of everything. My biggest thing is the food. We are Italian and for my family and me it is always about the food. We found some good food. Norman was just a cool place. I just felt it fit.

"I have a couple of visits scheduled and I told Coach Venables the same thing — that I had this visit to Oklahoma then I have a visit to Florida and Penn State. And, then, not too long after that he was going to be hearing from me about wherever I commit to. It won't be too long after I make my visits that I know what I want to do."

JH: So you want to make your decision before your football season starts?

MM: "Right."

JH: Is your top five the schools that you have talked about?

MM: "Yeah, but I don't want to put them in any kind of order. Right now it is like Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida, Oregon and LSU. That is right now and not in any particular order."

JH: How is your off-season going?

MM: "It is going great. We actually started spring ball this past Monday. I thought I was shaky on Monday, but we came back Tuesday and I was back to normal. We have been having great days and we have been practicing really well lately. Our tempo has been going well. Everybody is starting to get back into shape and as a team we are beginning to come together."

JH: So, to sum it up, does Oklahoma have a solid chance to sign you after your visit?

MM: "Definitely. I can't say right now, but it is just going to be where I think I fit best. I came out of Oklahoma and I was like I really don't need to see any other school. But this whole process is about evaluating these schools. I know that every time that I come out of these visits I am going to want to go there. That is just the way it is,because if they have you on their campus they are going to do everything in their power to try to get your there and show you all the good stuff. I know all these schools are going to have the great facilities and all that, but I want to see some of the stuff that is deeper than that.

"I want to see or hear some of the negative things, and I just want to see what fits best. I think I am going to find out more about Florida when I go there and I am going to find out more about Penn State when I go there. Then I can compare what I have among those three schools. That is pretty much where I am at right now. It won't be to long now. We have about another two months here before I will commit."

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