Matthew Butler is ambitious, articulate, confident, honest and really good at football.
All of those attributes are on their way to Knoxville as the Scout No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the Tar Heel State verbally declared his intention Wednesday to play his college football for the Tennessee Volunteers. The announcement took place at a ceremony in Garner, North Carolina.
Butler chose the Big Orange over finalists Duke, North Carolina State, Penn State, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
“One thing I guess would be different is just like there is a renewed sense of renewed attention to detail,” Butler told InsideTennessee. “Early in the season there was skepticism about how they started off games and their health. (Tennessee) coach (Butch) Jones, when he talks to me, he says they’re going to make some changes in their strength and conditioning staff and their nutrition and also bring in players that can come into the game strong and maintain it the whole game. I’ve analyzed that in myself. When he was saying that to me, I understood it and I felt like I could be applicable for what he was talking about."
Jones as well as defensive line coach Steve Stripling and linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen have led the charge in landing the skilled defender.
“I feel like they’re very genuine,” Butler said. “Once they figured out how I was as a player and how I was as a person, they gave me the affirmation necessary to discern whether or not Tennessee is going to be a place for me or not for me. I think they put the information out there rather than being the type of recruiters that are just like, ‘We need you. We want you,’ and don’t give me any basis on why or just always something flashy. So, it’s always been something substantial.”
Expectations are for Butler to take his fifth and final official visit to Knoxville in January.
The Garner (N.C.) High School standout joins Marquez Bembry of Atlanta, Kivon Bennett of Fort Lauderdale, Eric Crosby of Virginia Beach and Deandre Johnson of Miami as 2017 class defensive linemen heading to Rocky Top. Butler is the lone Tar Heel State native on Tennessee’s pledge sheet.
The immediate need to add defensive line help is clear for Tennessee.
“They were telling me a lot about how there is some potential for early playing time but that would have been up to me,” Butler said. “Once I got into my senior season and transitioned to defensive end and started playing it well and showed how my body can bend, how my hands can work at defensive end, they were telling me how I have the potential to compete for a defensive end spot — run-stopping and pass-rushing defensive end, not just a third-down player but a three-down player. I’ve always felt like I have the potential to be a three-down player. Like in the Shrine Bowl (of the Carolinas), I showed that I can stop the run against pretty good O-linemen and I showed pass rushing all year. That’s fun, and I definitely feel like I know how to do it.”
Since the Shrine Bowl week is complete, Butler’s prep football days are over.
“Now I’m just going to keep on working out like a football player to some extent,” he said. “I’m not playing basketball just because of my knee and whatnot. Possibly doing a spring sport, you know, just track and field. For the most part, whatever school I go to, I’ll get a workout plan, I’ll get a playbook. I’ll dedicate myself to that and work on defensive line fundamentals. That sounds like a plan to me.”
The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder bench presses 365 pounds, power cleans 305, squats 525 and dead lifts 545.
In 2016, Butler reports 90 tackles (25 tackles for loss), 26 sacks and four pass deflections.
Butler reports a 4.2 grad point average and plans to major in Political Science. His school does not allow midyear graduation, and he plans to enroll in college in the summer. He has not signed financial aid paperwork with any schools.