Tar Heel State's No. 1 DT Matthew Butler sits down with Vols coach Butch Jones

Can Tennessee tap back into North Carolina to pluck a big-time defender in Matthew Butler the way it did with Shy Tuttle?

Matthew Butler announced a top 7 back in March. Not included was Tennessee.

Enter Butch Jones.

Tennessee’s fourth-year head coach joined the team attempting to get Butler to follow in the footsteps of Vols sophomore Shy Tuttle as the Scout No. 1-rated defensive tackle in the Tar Heel State to bring his talents to Rocky Top.

“I really like how they’ve developed,” Butler said. “This is a very nice campus, and the campus is right here by the football stadium. There’s connections with all the VFLs. There are some great things (about Tennessee) but there are also a lot of great things about other schools so I just have to weigh everything, balance it and see how it all goes.”

Conversations with Jones and staff convinced Butler to visit Tennessee last weekend.

While both current players and committed prospects took a laid-back approach to the invite-only Orange Carpet Day, the Garner (N.C.) High School standout showed up with a gameplan that included learning more about the Big Orange from Jones and defensive line coach Steve Stripling.

“It was really fun,” Butler said. “I got to see the campus and everything. I got here a little early so I could see the educational side of things, and it was really enjoyable. I actually got to sit down with coach (Stripling) and a few other coaches — coach Jones — and really talked about football because that’s what I am basing my decision off of. This was an extremely fun time. I got to eat some good food, had fun, but I can’t make my decision based off of that so I talked to them about some serious things as well as the academics.

“(The coaches) were talking about how they have a plan, a process, and the need in the defensive line. And they’ve had a way of recruiting on the defensive line the past four years for what they want to do.

“Having fun is great, but if I’m having too much fun in college then am I accomplishing what I want to accomplish? So I’m treating every visit like I’m here already.”

The Scout No. 34 defensive tackle in the nation and No. 11 in the South isn’t going to be satisfied by simply getting a degree and playing college football.

“I have kind of already narrowed down things, but I can get a good education anywhere, I can play football anywhere but where’s it really going to happen — not only accomplish my goals but accomplish them on the highest level to where I can stand out?” Butler said. “If I put in the work, I can stand out, but if I have the help and connections all around me, then I’ll definitely stand out.”

Knoxville is a potential landing spot with Tennessee among a single-digit number of schools that have his attention.

Some of the competition to sign Butler includes Duke, Georgia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Penn State, Virginia and Virginia Tech. A winter declaration appears to be in the works.

“(The time table) is the one thing I’m kind of not methodical about because I can’t graduate early,” he said. “I would have made a decision (by now) if I could graduate early.

“I’ll probably make a decision in December and announce it at my high school because we kind of have a tradition of doing that. That should be enjoyable and should be at ease to know where I’m going and be able to stick to that weight program and prepare for my freshman year next year.”

Butler doesn’t have a date for doing so set but plans to return to Rocky Top for another visit.

“I have some plans but no dates or anything now so I don’t want to tell you anything that wouldn’t be totally true,” Butler said.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder ran a 5.39-second 40-yard dash at The Opening Charlotte back on April 24.

InsideTennessee managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this report.


Photo by Danny Parker

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