6’4″ 295 pounds; Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.
It’s been a long time since Matthew Butler was a recruit. He committed to Tennessee football back in 2017 as part of Butch Jones’ final full class and was a three-star across the board. The guy he’s ahead of now, LaTrell Bumphus, actually had higher ratings.
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Both Butler and Bumphus could end up being key this year as defensive ends for the Vols who could play in the middle, but Butler is the more proven star. The graduate of Garner Senior High School, just outside of Raleigh but still in North Carolina’s Wake County, has been one of the most reliable playmakers for UT recently.
Over the past two years, Butler has had three tackles for a loss both times. He had two and a half sacks one year and two another, and he’s even broken up three passes while forcing a fumble. Overall, he has come away with 88 total tackles during that time, 45 of which were solo.
This has all been while playing up on the line in a 3-4 system much friendlier to the edge rushers playing linebacker. Simply put, Butler has been incredibly reliable for the Vols. His decision to take advantage of the COVID eligibility ruling and come back for another year was the first shot in the arm for a program that desperately needed it at the end of last year.
Thanks to guys like Butler, Tennessee football’s defensive line is much deeper than it could have been. That’s a great starting point for a new head coach in the SEC, and with Butler as the face of that unit, he’s undeniably the most valuable player on the team who was once a three-star recruit.