Constantin Ritzmann, a German exchange student dubbed The Germanator during his career as a Vol defensive end (1999-2003), now teaches defensive-line techniques at a Duluth (Ga.) football academy he co-manages with former NFL offensive lineman Todd Perry.
Ritzmann's prize pupil, Carl Lawson of Milton High in Alpharetta, Ga., was rated a four-star prospect and the No. 77 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by FOX Sports NEXT. Tennessee nearly got a commitment last winter from Lawson, who ultimately chose Auburn. Now the Vols are in the running for another Ritzmann protege.
Six-foot-3, 225-pound Andrew Butcher is a rising junior at Alpharetta High, where he is emerging as one of the top defensive-end prospects in the Class of 2015. He says Ritzmann is lobbying for him to attend Tennessee.
"He loves it up here," Butcher said during an unofficial visit to the UT campus, "and he'd like for me to go here."
Brian Butcher, Andrew's father, thinks his son is developing into a big-time prospect under Ritzmann's guidance.
|Butcher sat in on a D-line meeting in Knoxville headed up by Tennessee assistant coach Steve Stripling (pictured) this spring.|
The Butchers visited Knoxville for Tennessee's "Family Day" earlier this spring and returned to check out the Orange & White game. They like the family atmosphere Butch Jones has created within the Big Orange program.
"It's a really big deal because I'm very close to my parents and family," Andrew said. "It's important to me."
After a few up-close looks, young Butcher appreciates the way Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling goes about schooling his troops.
"He wants 'em to play physical," Butcher said, "and he's going to do all he can to make that happen."
Butcher, who described Tennessee practices as "fast-paced and physical," got to sit in on one of Stripling's defensive line meetings earlier this spring.
"It was a nice experience, just to see how they react privately to how the coach treats 'em," he said.
Asked how it compared to the defensive line meetings he attended at Alpharetta High, Butcher quipped: "What's a defensive line meeting in high school?"
Describing himself as an "aggressive" defender who likes to "play with a high motor and a nice get-off," Butcher says his pass-rush techniques have improved dramatically in recent months.
"They've gotten much better over the offseason because I train with Constantin Ritzmann, who played here at Tennessee," the prospect said. "They're going to be a lot better than last year."
Andrew Butcher isn't the first member of his family to be recruited by Tennessee. His dad was on the Vols' radar during the Bill Battle years.
"Then Johnny Majors took over as head coach," Brian Butcher recalled, "and he began recruiting more nationally."
Constantin Ritzmann puts pressure on a Vanderbilt ballcarrier during a Tennessee game in November 2001. (Photo by Doug Pensiger/ALLSPORT)