One on one with DT Matthew Butler

One of the top prospects at a position of need for Duke is the state’s top interior defensive lineman, Matthew Butler.   The three star defensive tackle recently visited Durham officially and spoke about the experience with TDD.

How is your senior year progressing in the classroom?

I’m still taking some AP courses, but having some free periods this year is really helping me out as well. This year I have 3 AP courses I’m taking and last year I took 2 AP courses, so that’ll put me up to 5 total.

Did you take the AP tests for either of the AP courses last year?

Yes sir, I got a 3 on 1 and I got a 2 on the other, but at least I took the courses and knew what to expect for this year.

What are your main academic interests at this point?

I’m looking into majoring in Political Science in college and I’m trying to go to law school in the future.

So let’s discuss your first official visit to Duke if we can, what was going through your mind as you started on that visit?

I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that I wanted to go to a game day atmosphere so I could see how that worked, and I enjoyed the whole experience. Everybody was really nice and pleasant and I got to see things really up close and personal and I was able to take even more of an in depth look at everything with the players and coaches, their interactions. I had more in depth talks with people that I’ve already talked with before at Duke, it was good.

What kind of things did you see that were either just really helpful for you to see or experience or was just new for you?

None of it was really like super new information, I got to dig a lot deeper with the information that I already knew before that. It was really interesting to see the game day and their preparations, and even with them losing that was ok because my purpose was to really see them and how they handled game day.

What was really interesting for you to learn in a more in depth fashion on the Duke visit?

The most interesting thing really was how they coped with the loss and even if it had been a win, that was something that I was going to look into because it was my plan and purpose in making these officials on game days was to potentially see things like that.

What did you learn in that vein as you were with both the Duke players and the coaches after that game?

The things that I observed, nothing stood out necessarily—I just liked the way things were done. I didn’t see anything that I didn’t like if you know what I mean. It was corrective, everything was corrective after the game because everybody wanted to correct their mistakes in a disciplined manner. It was great because I kinda got to see both of things that were said on the field and then afterwords. I got to watch film and be analyzed professionally and also see the team analyzed professionally which was great because college is the next step to whatever you are doing after that. To be able to see a professional coach break things down like I saw, that’s what I found intriguing.

So in those film sessions, was that with Coach Cutcliffe or another member of the staff running through that with you?

It was actually with Coach Albert just being that he’s my position coach. He made his critiques and said some things he likes about me as a player. That’s something I liked because people that know me understand that everyone can improve, so if he can point out what I need to improve upon, I think that’s fantastic because he’s a professional.

Is that first time you’ve ever had an in depth talk with Coach Albert along those lines?

Yeah, that was pretty much the first time because I’ve never been with him before like at a camp so I actually just asked him what we were planning on doing when I looked at the visit agenda and I noticed that him and I had some time together, and he told me that we could do whatever you want in that time. So I asked him if we could sit down and watch some film because he’s a professional and any professional you are going to respect them based on their record of coaching and based on they are getting paid to be a professional coach. I just found that intriguing. That’s something that if time allows I’d like to do on every campus I’m on for a visit because they are all professionals and they are some of the highest paid professionals in their states to coach football.

What was really helpful for you in seeing how Coach Albert both coached you in those film sessions  and then how he coached his guys both before, during and after the game?

Just like hard coaching really, not passive coaching. There’s going to be some places where there’s more passive coaching and I’m not saying that’s a bad situation, but I’m saying that the players I saw aren’t passive and seeing how they aren’t coached passively, that’s a good thing to see just straight hard coaching. Like I said, they are getting to paid to coach and the players are on scholarship to play, so, nobody needs to be passive. That’s something I look for in a program and I don’t want a mistake to be dealt with passively, I mean you don’t want it to be overreacted to or blown out of proportion, but a mistake needs to be understood and then corrected. That’s what I saw from the players and the coaches at Duke, and that was a good thing to see because they all want to improve and that’s something that I want to do too.

What were your impressions of how Duke’s defensive line played in that game you watched on the visit? 

No defensive line is going to play a perfect game, but I saw the potential at each one of the 4 positions on the line, it was just mistakes and really, they went over the film and they saw that they were doing ridiculously well in the first half and then all of their big plays for Wake Forest came in huge bunches after like one big mistake. Not that’s any better with a big mistake than a little mistake, but if it’s a lot of little mistakes you have to correct versus one big mistake then that’s different. That’s what was pointed out to me and I even noticed that before it was even pointed out.

How do you feel about your potential fit there on the line now that you seen them up close in a game?

Just me personally I feel like I can fit anywhere because a fit is based off a skillset and then adherence to instruction. So with my weight and height and skillset, if I’m instructed to do something and you just follow that instruction—that might end up being the best decision of your life. I feel like a fit is really up to the person being fitted. If I do what Coach Albert tells me to do, he’s going to put me in the best position to be successful and that’s any coach. I just have to be able to be both willing and physically able to do what he asks and that’s with anybody.

There wasn’t anything with that that I didn’t like, there were some things that were executed better than other things, but then there were things where I thought about how I would execute that if I were asked to do that. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like. There was with one player where he said to him to never execute a spin move unless you are at the level of the quarterback and that makes sense because if you spin around early you may not be in position, so that made a lot of sense. I just liked the way he instructs and how he designed things but there were some things that I didn’t quite understand like with their terminology but that was ok because if everybody used the same terminology as everybody else, then nobody would be superior to the others. There wasn’t anything that I disliked but there were some things that I asked, “like why is this done in this way ?”, but that was more a curious thing, it wasn’t like I was asking that thinking that I either just couldn’t do that or that I wouldn’t want to, it was more just trying to understand.

Those questions you just talked about, were those questions you came into the visit prepared to ask?

Those were definitely I observed them in the game and in the film session. Like I would see a tackle block down on a defensive tackle and instead of the defensive tackle kind of being ahead of the tackle, the d tackle would kinda press him and stay in the gap which I understand there’s some upside to that, but I asked hey, why don’t we just go make the play and they told me that on the college level, you never know because of how good the athlete is on the other side of the ball, so I understood that. That was something to learn from.

Is there a big difference in your estimation between what Duke asks their defensive line to do versus how the other programs in your top group and their d lines?

I don’t see a humongous difference and everybody is different in some ways. At the same time, this was my first official visit, so it’s the first one I’ve been able to really get a look at along those lines.

What was it like for you being on the visit with Drew Jordan?

I had known him and he had known of me before, but we had never met. We talked for a little bit and we talked about, we didn’t really talk about the reasons why he picked Duke because I’ve heard that a 100 times from everybody and if I picked Duke I know the reasons why I would if I did pick Duke. So we just had friendly conversations and the opportunities there, nothing really extensive.

What do you think for you would be the main reasons for you to pick Duke if you decide that’s where you want to go?

Really if I were to pick Duke, the main thing would be because of the coaching. I really respect those coaches a lot and the way they do things and I really feel like I could take a lot away from the experience there. The additional upside as well is all the opportunities outside of football that come from there, but one of the good things with them is the stable coaching. They have a stable coaching staff there. I feel like Duke has the most stable coaching staff out of the coaches recruiting me.

How big a factor is that in your decision-making process?

Yeah because I don’t want to be in a situation necessarily where midway through my playing career I have to switch coaching staffs, it’s not necessarily convenient.

From a relationship perspective, do you think things stayed the same with the coaches and players at Duke after the visit, or did the relationship grow stronger in your opinion?

The players definitely grew stronger because I hadn’t met a lot of them prior to the visit. Being recruited by Duke for a long time it’s not like I met a lot of new coaches that I hadn’t talked with before, and that’s how it is with all of those schools in my top group. At Duke I got to spend time with both recruiting coordinators, I got spend time with Coach Guerreri, Coach Smith, Coach Albert and Coach Cutcliffe.

What was different in what they had to say to you on this visit from past conversations?

Nothing was different which was fine because that was one of the reasons why I wanted to come in when I did, I didn’t want anything sugarcoated or a show put on. Like I’ve been at schools where you got information, but it was kinda general, non-specific info. I came on a game day weekend so I could spend time around the d line, spend time with those coaches and not have anything sugarcoated. I would say that I have such a good relationship with this coaching staff that nothing is going to change with the visit, I’m just going to see everything more in depth. The official visits really I feel like are necessary for the full picture of seeing what college football is really like at these programs, you really shouldn’t make your decision based on how much fun you had on a visit. I spent time with the players and that was fun, but if we hadn’t done that and had just sat in a dorm that would have been fine for me in terms of my take away from Duke. The staff made it fun and there were definitely moments where it was fun and all that type of stuff, but it was really handled more from a business trip perspective because what schools that have paid attention to me have picked up on with my personality and making this decision, it’s choosing a school is going to be based on the right reasons and the right factors. I had a friend who committed to a school initially because he saw a lot of parties in the dorm and he told me that which I didn’t agree with at first, but then he kinda woke up later and made his decision for the right reasons which was good.

So since you are making a business decision from what you described, what’s your thoughts on the reality that some of the schools in your top group have a much longer and storied football tradition at those programs than others on your list, so how are you evaluating that in light of Duke’s track record as it relates to football?

Coach Cutcliffe has been doing this for a long time and really, Coach Albert, Duke wasn’t even really on my radar until he came there and I started to really like Duke because of the way he coaches and the way he approaches things. He’s been great to me and honestly, I stopped talking to every school that was treating me more like a recruit and the thing with Duke is that they treat me like I’m a potential part of the team, not a recruit. I feel like I have that perception to see that in a school and I really liked seeing that from Coach Albert in terms of how he relates to me. I remember somebody asked me, I think it was a reporter and I don’t know why he asked this, but he asked me if fan support was going to be a part of my decision-making process and I was like, absolutely not. First of all, if you have time to be on Twitter and associating with recruits, then you pretty much are just a fan and then secondly, that’s not what making a decision is about.

How about on the conference side of things? How much will it affect your decision-making process the opportunity to either play in conferences like the SEC or ACC, etc?

I feel like the SEC, ACC and Big 10 are all Power 5 conferences and they are all strong, so I feel like I’d be good since I would be playing really good teams in all of those conferences.

So how’s the decision-making timetable playing out?

I’m actually not going to decide until after the season.

What sparked the change in wanting to decide from mid-October to now after your season?

Adversity in our program. Nothing crazy, just some injuries and we had a tough loss, so I’m just trying to focus on the season. I really don’t feel like I can make a bad decision at this point, it’s just about comparing factors at each program, coaching style, teammates, living situation. I really don’t feel like I can make a bad decision with any of the programs, it’s just seeing if there’s one overriding factor that ends up standing out.


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