At 6-feet-3 and 313 pounds, Shy Tuttle looks like a pro wrestling star who could deliver quite a pile-driver. As a high school football star back in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, however, he proved to be quite a pile-driver.
Though best known as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Tuttle also showed a knack for pushing the pile as a part-time ball-carrier.
“When we got close to the goal line I played a little fullback,” he recalled with a smile. “I scored six touchdowns my junior year, maybe two or three my senior year.”
Now a mid-term enrollee at Tennessee, he would relish the chance to fill a similar role for the Vols.
“I’d like to,” he said, smiling sheepishly. “That would be fun.”
Watching a 313-pounder bull his way into the checkerboard end zones at Neyland Stadium would be fun for fans, as well. They could call him The Tuttle Shuttle and yell “Shy-boom” each time he blasts his way across the goal line.
Before he scores touchdowns for the Big Orange, however, Tuttle must learn to prevent them as a member of Tennessee’s defensive line. He certainly has the qualifications. As a high school freshman he recorded 74 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks. He followed with 97 stops, 26 tackles for loss and 18 sacks en route to Sophomore All-America recognition from MaxPreps. After posting 77 stops, nine tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior, he closed with 67 stops, 17 tackles for loss and five sacks as a senior.
Tuttle was so productive last fall that he earned invitations to the 2014 Shrine Bowl and the 2015 Under Armour All-American game. He impressed Scout enough to earn a four-star rating and a No. 12 ranking among defensive tackle prospects.
Tennessee also has a commitment from Kahlil McKenzie, Scout’s No. 1 defensive tackle and No. 1 overall recruit. The thought of Tuttle and McKenzie side by side naturally stirs memories of former Vol tackle tandem John Henderson and Albert Haynesworth, both first-round picks in the 2002 NFL Draft. Could Tuttle and McKenzie be the next dynamic duo?
“We’ve talked about it a little bit,” Tuttle said, “but we talk more as friends than recruits.”
McKenzie has the bigger reputation but Tuttle has the advantage of enrolling in time to participate in spring practice. That could accelerate his development considerably.
“I feel like it’s very beneficial,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the season. I’ll be ahead with the coaches and the playbook.”
Before he takes the field for spring practice, however, Tuttle has a lot of preparation ahead of him, mental and physical.
“The workouts have been hard,” he said, adding that the toughest adjustment to college thus far, is “probably just having so much time and staying active.”
Although physically imposing, Tuttle lives up to his name in terms of personality. He is very shy — never using 10 words when five will suffice.
Asked to describe his approach to defensive line play, he replied: “I just focus on doing my job. I just think about going over what I did in practice.”
Asked if he’s a better run stuffer or pass rusher, he answered: “I’d say I’m a little bit of both.”
Asked how good Tennessee’s defensive line can be in 2015, he replied: “Pretty good. We’ve got a bunch of top recruits. As long as we listen to Coach Strip and work hard we can be pretty good.”
The “Coach Strip” reference is to defensive line coach Steve Stripling, the guy responsible for raising Tennessee’s sack total from 18 in 2013 to 35 in 2014. He already is preparing his newest pupil, Tuttle said, by “getting me in the film room and learning the play book.”
Stripling prefers his linemen quick and agile. That means Tuttle must drop a few pounds to be ready for fall. He enrolled at 313 but his target weight is 305.
“My goals?” he said. “Just become a better pass rusher and get in better shape.”
If Tuttle can accomplish those two objectives, perhaps he can make an immediate impact on the Vol D-line, much as Derek Barnett did as a freshman in 2014. That’s the hope.
“Yes, sir,” Tuttle said. “Derek’s pretty good, and Coach Strip is a pretty good coach. If I come in and work hard, do my job, I can play and contribute.”
At this point the dozen or so reporters surrounding the new Vol were told the interview was finished. Immediately turning to sports information director Jason Yellin, Tuttle earnestly asked, “Did I do OK?”