After losing the commitment of four-star edge rusher BJ Ojulari, Tennessee has been looking to find another future pass rusher in their 2020 class. On Friday, they picked up a commitment from a prospect who perfectly fits that mold.
Jimari Butler, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound defensive end/outside linebacker from Alabama, announced his commitment to Tennessee on Twitter on Friday afternoon, choosing the Vols over Ole Miss, Nebraska, Maryland, TCU, and others.
— Jimari Butler (@ButlerJimari) November 8, 2019
Right now, Butler doesn’t have a ranking on the 247Sports Composite rankings, and he’s only the No. 1,332 overall prospect and No. 62 weak-side defensive end in the 2020 class per the regular 247Sports rankings. But that’s largely because Butler wasn’t even on the radar of football scouts until this past summer.
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.
Despite the inexperience with the game of football, 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.
Back in July, UAB gave him his first FBS offer. In September, Kansas became the first Power Five school to offer him, and the Vols were the first SEC school to extend an offer to Butler when they did so in late September.
Since then, Butler has added offers from Nebraska, Maryland, TCU, Ole Miss, and Indiana along with offers from Toledo, Southern Miss, and South Alabama.
Butler made a visit to Tennessee’s campus back in early October when the Vols hosted then-No. 3 Georgia.
“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.”
What kept Butler from playing football up until his senior season? He 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.”
That intensity in Butler’s game immediately stands out on his highlight film from his senior season. What he lacks in fine-tuned technique, Butler makes up for in raw athleticism, speed, and passion. Even with his raw nature, Butler shows off some high-end qualities and already has a pretty good football IQ. He can play with his hand in the dirt as a down lineman or standing up as an edge rusher.
With Butler’s commitment, the Vols now have 18 prospects committed to them in their 2020 class. Butler is UT’s only true projected pass rusher in the class as of right now, and he’s the second recruit from Alabama to commit to Tennessee in this cycle. Butler joins offensive guard James Robinson, who hails from Montgomery. Butler is the eighth prospect in UT’s 2020 class who projects as a defensive player in college.