Can Butler Do It?

Rashad Butler will make his first start at left tackle this Thursday versus Louisville. Butler expects the Cardinal defense to come after him, but Butler says that he is up to the challenge. Rashad Butler embodies everything that makes the University of Miami football program the best in the country. Butler has that Miami "swagger".

You would think that Butler would be nervous about replacing pre-season All-American Eric Winston, but is ready to step in.

Each year UM consistently replaces high caliber players lost to the NFL draft or to graduation. When an All-American leaves, the next person in line is expected to step in and rise to the occasion. Butler sees this opportunity as no different.

"I don't really look at it as big shoes to fill," Butler says. "I look at it as an opportunity to go out now and do what I'm good at, which is blocking and playing with speed. I look at it as an opportunity to help my team out and fulfill the challenge."

The difference between playing right tackle and left tackle is huge. At left tackle Butler will be protecting the quarterback's blind side. Every move that Butler makes in pass protection is crucial.

Although he has not seen much time at left tackle, Butler isn't inexperienced. Last season he started at right tackle for four games and saw action in six others. He did see playing time at left tackle in the second half of the Orange Bowl game against Florida State. The transition from right to left tackle was awkward for him at first, but Butler said the extra week of practice has helped him get comfortable on the left side.

"This bye week definitely helped me out. I am starting to feel more comfortable. I have really good confidence, because I know that day by day I am getting better. I'm starting to feel more comfortable. That is the key thing, the more I feel comfortable, then the more the confidence will come. It is only a matter of time before I'll be ready to go and be locked in at the left tackle spot."

During this past week of practice, offensive line Coach Kehoe has also shown confidence in Butler's ability. Rashad says that Kehoe hasn't really been worried about finding a replacement for Winston.

"(Coach Kehoe) hasn't really said anything about stepping up or filling anybody's shoes. I guess he knows I can do it after starting 3 or 4 games at right tackle(last season). He knows I can do it because I backed up Eric all last year."

While Butler says he is ready for the challenge, the Cardinal defense is nothing to sneeze at. They rank number nine in the country in total defense. Butler expects the Louisville defense to test him often during the game, but he doesn't expect any problems. Butler knows he will have to prove himself early in order to stifle any plans of them taking advantage of his first start at the position.

"They are alright (the Louisville defensive line)," Butler said. "They are not like the Florida State guys, but they are going to try to get after us knowing that Eric is gone. They might try to come to the left side a couple plays and test me. After I show them I am pretty good at what I am doing they are going to have to go somewhere else. I think the first couple of plays they are definitely going to test the left side."

Any questions about Butler's fibula that he injured earlier in the fall are now gone. He says he is 100% healthy and ready to play.

"It is completely healed. It doesn't bother me anymore. I was wandering about that because moving to the left side that is the foot I kick off of, but it's not bothering me. I think it is 100% now."

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