Aaron Butler, paving the way

<b><a href=http://scout.TheInsiders.com/a.z?s=147&p=8&c=1&nid=306150&yr=2002>Reggie Williams</a></b> isn't the only current Husky to come from Lakes High School in Lakewood, Washington. So did <b><a href=http://scout.TheInsiders.com/a.z?s=147&p=8&c=1&nid=306413&yr=2002>Aaron Butler</a></b>, the 330-pounder from the Pierce County school who has quietly moved his way into the starting rotation on the offensive line in this, his third season at Washington.

Butler has come along way since his first days as a Husky back in the fall of 2000, when he reported to camp out of shape and buried deep on the depth-chart behind a wealth of experienced monster linemen.

Last year as a red-shirt freshman, Butler was forced into duty when starting weak guard Nick Newton hurt his ankle against Oregon State and was ruled out for the Apple Cup game. Butler, who had been working out as a strong guard all season, got the news and spent the week with offensive line coach Brent Myers learning the weak guard position.

Leading up to the game, the butterflies started fluttering in Butler's stomach. Nevertheless, he started the game, and not only did he start, he flourished. By game's end, the butterflies quieted down and Butler was named the team's Most Valuable Player of the game in Washington's 26-14 victory.

Butler returned to strong guard during spring practices and, according to Myers, did a terrific job. But as the offensive line coach began evaluating his front five for 2002, he saw a pressing need at the strong tackle position, which was at the time being held down by Andre Reeves (who has since quit the team) and red-shirt freshman Robin Meadow. So Myers moved Newton to the tackle spot, one which he had occupied earlier in his Husky career. To fill the gap left by Newton at weak guard, Myers turned to Butler.

"I moved Butler to weak guard in replacement of Nick Newton because Aaron was always a solid backup a year ago," said Myers. "I have a lot of confidence in him in that regard. I felt that he was in the top five players on the offensive line. It was a natural move for me."

Now penciled in as a starter as the season-opener rapidly approaches, Butler says that his approach to the season has changed from how it was as a reserve.

"I have more focus now," said Butler after a recent practice. "I pay more attention to the scheme of things as far as the offense goes and how the defenses line up. I pay more attention to how they blitz or stunt and everything else they could possibly throw at us. I'm looking at the game more seriously now."

One person who Butler could turn to for advice is the young man who plays right next to him, Khalif Barnes, the red-shirt sophomore who was in a similar position a season ago. Barnes red-shirted in 2000 as a freshman, and after a monster spring was asked to come in and start immediately in 2001 at the toughest position on the offensive line, weak tackle. Barnes had his rough moments, but he learned as he went and improved over the course of the season. Barnes knows that Butler is capable of the same thing.

"Aaron is a good ace guy," Barnes said. "He's a great guy to run-block with. He has a great base and is real strong in the squats with a mark of over 600 pounds. He is going to be a real good offensive guard. I think he learns fast, he's going to know the offense well, and from now until Michigan he's going to be ready. I believe that, and I'm going to get him to believe that since he's going to be working with me."

Butler is pleased to have made it into the starting rotation, and credits his rise to the top on his hard work during practices.

"It all just comes down to doing the little things in practice that impress the coaches," he said, "just being where you need to be before everybody else, doing what you're supposed to do with as much intensity as you can. Those things just add up in the coaches views and I think that's how I got to where I am right now."

Being where he is at isn't a bad place, but with his new role comes plenty of pressure to play well and perform at a high level. Butler understands that, and feels confident that he'll be able to live up to his potential.

"Coming off just starting one game last year to being penciled in as the starter this year, there are a lot of expectations that need to be met and a lot of challenges that need to be conquered from my part," he said. "I feel, for the most part, that I'm developing real nicely. There are still some fundamental things that I need to work on, but right now I feel real good."

As a starter for one of the top programs in the Pacific-10 Conference, how couldn't he feel good.

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