Matthew Butler isn’t hurting for confidence, and he’s not hurting for reasons in in which Tennessee could use him.
The Scout No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the Tar Heel State is one of few on an increasingly shrinking list of 2017 class prospects that could have a commitment accepted by Vols coaches.
Butch Jones, defensive line coach Steve Stripling and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen have headed up the charge to get the Garner (N.C.) High School linemen in orange.
“Coach Jones and coach Strip have really applauded my versatility and my improvement,” Butler told InsideTennessee. “They really applauded my junior film, and they feel as though my senior film is leaps and bounds above that just because I’m playing defensive end now. I feel like my get-off has improved. My hands and eyes have improved. I’m making a lot more plays.
“They like my versatility as well. Some of their defensive line commits that they have are either, one, either not as versatile as me, in my opinion. I just feel like based off what they’re saying and based off what I’m observing, I can still come into Tennessee — if that’s what I did — and really still compete for an end spot or a tackle spot.
“That’s why I’m still interested, and they’ve been recruiting me hard. I have a good relationship with coach Thigpen, my recruiter, and coach Strip, the defensive line coach, and also coach Jones. It’s still somebody I’m considering. They’ve explained to me their situation as far as depth. They still feel as if me being the type person that I am, that my competitiveness aspect, my competitive spirit will lead me to no problems as far as not feeling as if I’m having the most of my time at Tennessee being if that’s what I do, that’s what I do.”
The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder got an up-close look at the Vols when they played Alabama, Appalachian State and Virginia Tech. He understands what Tennessee to do with its four-man front, knows the depth chart for 2017 and beyond and how he’d be used.
“They really want me to play defensive line because they have four pretty big 3-techniques they’re bringing in after losing two,” said Butler, pointing toward commits Kivon Bennett, Eric Crosby, Brandon Gaddy and Breyon Gaddy. “After losing (Corey) Vereen and losing (Derek) Barnett, that’s two more end spots. They feel as if, due to my versatility, if I can make the save them bucks playing 3-technique, that’s what they’re gonna do. If I can save big bucks playing 5-technique or strong-9, then that’s what I’m going to do.
“Wherever I go, I trust that my coaches are going to put my best interests (first) and in the best situation to not only excel for the team I’m playing for, but to move on to the next level because I feel like I have the potential and I definitely feel like I have the work ethic. College football is not the only football I’m going to play, and I feel like my ceiling can only get higher by how I work and how I approach the game. I’m just trying to find the coaches that I can put my trust in to get to where I want to go.”
The Scout No. 10-ranked D-tackle in the South has had a leader at different stages of this recruitment but changed his mind at least once.
Arkansas, Duke, N.C. State, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M and West Virginia make up a solid portion of the schools vying for Butler’s signed letter of intent.
Garner High is not set up for students to graduate early, so Butler will not be enrolling in college in January. He is on the North Carolina roster for the 80th Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which kicks off at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., on Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. Eastern.