Tennessee working pipeline to Peach State

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For Andrew Butcher, making the decision to brave threats of snow in the East Tennessee area and hauling the 220-odd miles from Alpharetta, Ga., to Knoxville, Tenn., needed little consideration.

After all, he's always been a "part Tennessee fan."

The Class of 2015 defensive end from Alpharetta High School said he's plenty familiar with the Tennessee football program. Butcher said several relatives on his father's side of the family attended college at UT.

Alongside family ties, Butcher was a high school teammate of Tennessee quarterback signee Joshua Dobbs.

"I've always been around Tennessee my whole life. I've always liked them," Butcher told InsideTennessee. "I've grown up around Tennessee fans and family who love Tennessee. It's always been something I've heard a lot about."

Butcher said he only hopes to further his familiarity with the Vols' program after receiving his second of three scholarship offers while attending one of Tennessee's junior days on Feb. 2.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore has received offers from West Virginia, Tennessee and most recently Utah on Feb. 7.

"To get an offer from Tennessee was a very big deal," Butcher said. "It was very humbling. Like I said, I've always been a part Tennessee fan."

The reason Butcher uses the term "part" could be found on his father's finger as the duo departed the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center that Saturday.

Butcher's father, Brian, played guard at Clemson and won a national championship with the Tigers in 1981 before being selected in the 11th round of the NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings in 1983.

Butcher spent time on his visit talking with Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling (pictured).
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)
"Naturally, I've been a Clemson fan my entire life," Butcher said.

While Butcher said Clemson remains atop his visit wish list, which also includes Georgia, Auburn, Vanderbilt, West Virginia and another trip to Tennessee, the sophomore insisted that his dad hasn't been pushing him toward his alma mater too heavily.

"I'm big on Clemson, of course, but (my father) is letting me feel it out on my own," Butcher said. "He keeps telling me that it's my decision. I liked what I saw while at Tennessee."

The Georgia native said he spent the majority of his Tennessee trip talking with UT's defensive line coach Steve Stripling and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who extended Butcher the scholarship offer.

"Everyone around (Tennessee's) program was so nice," Butcher said. "It was a great visit. I spent some time with coach Thigpen, but spent the majority of it with coach Stripling. We worked on building a relationship and I really think the Vols are moving in the right direction so far. They were telling me all about the bright future, but it may be too early to tell."

Butcher's trip to the Knoxville-based campus marked his first unofficial college visit. He said he enjoyed touring the athletic facilities and the Thornton Center, Tennessee's student-athlete academic counseling center.

"I just remember how nice the new facilities were," Butcher said. "I really liked the Thornton Center. It was very, very impressive and very cool. I liked the Thornton Center a lot. They set aside a lot of studying time and that was good to see."

But Butcher said the true highlight during his time on Rocky Top was touring the newly constructed football training center.

"It was massive and so nice," Butcher said. "It was really great and really impressive. I also liked trying on the jersey, but it was a lot harder to get off than I expected."

With the sophomore's recruitment ahead of most in his class, Butcher said he doesn't plan to slow things down and is looking forward to visiting several schools in the near future.

As for his certain visitation plans, Butcher said he will visit Georgia on Feb. 16-17.

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