Vols Make a Move with New Pass Rusher Target

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    (Photo via Travis Middleton/Preps@AL.com)

    This time last year, Jimari Butler wasn’t even playing football. It wasn’t until his high school head football coach convinced him to try out for the team in the spring that he ended up playing, and this year — his senior season — marks the first time since middle school that he’s played football.

    But the senior at Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama has been catching the attention of college coaches all across the country with his raw ability in his first year of high school football. At the midway point of Murphy’s season, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end/outside linebacker already had 34 tackles, eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 15 quarterback hurries.

    Butler picked up his first collegiate football offer back in July when UAB extended an offer to him. Kansas became the first Power Five school to offer him on September 3rd, and Tennessee became the first SEC school to give him a scholarship offer three weeks later.

    Now, Butler holds seven total offers, and Nebraska and Maryland have gotten in on the action as well.

    Butler’s recruitment has exploded, but he’s handled it in stride thus far. He took a visit to Tennessee’s campus over the weekend when the Vols hosted No. 3 Georgia, and the visit impressed the young defender.

    “It was a great great environment. I loved it,” Butler told me in a recent interview, adding that he “talked a lot” to recruits and others while on his visit. “I like the vibe of the SEC, too.”

    Butler got to attend Saturday’s game and was able to tour Tennessee’s facilities. His trip to Knoxville improved the Vols’ standing in his recruitment, too, as he added that the Vols are “most definitely higher” on his list now.

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    Tennessee’s coaches have clearly taken an interest in Butler, but he almost missed on hearing from UT’s coaches altogether.

    “It was a Tuesday night, and I was asleep, and my coach was blowing up my phone telling me (Tennessee) offered me,” Butler responded when asked about Tennessee offering him. “I didn’t know anything. It all happened through my coach.”

    Butler laughs about it now, but the interest between Tennessee and Butler is clearly mutual. He visited on a weekend where Tennessee hosted some of their top 2020 targets such as Omari Thomas, Bryson Eason, Martavius French, and Tamarion McDonald among several others.

    According to Butler, Tennessee is recruiting him as either a defensive end or outside linebacker either one. With his frame, he can put on more weight and play with his hand in the dirt. But with his athleticism and speed, he’s also a good fit as an outside linebacker in UT’s 3-4 defensive scheme.

    What kept him from playing football up until his senior season? Butler didn’t realize he would like the sport as much as he does, and he didn’t realize he would be this good, either.

    “Last year I wanted to participate in everything, and I didn’t know I was gonna be good, though,” Butler explained.

    Butler added that football is the sport he plans on sticking with long-term, and he sees a future playing the game because he really enjoys the passion and intensity of it.

    “Just the intensity of the game,” Butler said when asked what he likes about football. “You can always get mad and take it out on someone without getting in trouble.”

    Not only is Butler looking for what school will fit his on-field play the best, but he’s also checking and making sure each school he’s interested in will help him fulfill his academic goals, too. He plans on majoring in sports medicine, so schools without a good program won’t be a contender for his services.

    Butler has a lot to learn about football still, as he admitted to me when I asked about his offer list that he didn’t know what the “Power Five” was in regards to college football. But the 6-foot-5, 215-pound defender possesses plenty of ability, and the raw talent and athleticism he has is enough to make several Power Five schools jump on the chance to recruit him.

    Right now, Butler says he’s just taking everything one step at a time and letting everything play out before he makes a decision on his future. And with more and more offers coming in every week, the end for his recruitment is a long ways off.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.