Impact Analysis: Jimari Butler

by | Nov 8, 2019

The Tennessee Volunteers are going to lose senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor at the end of this season. Taylor was the sack leader for the Vols last season and currently leads them in that category this year as well. The fifth year senior will be difficult to replace for the Vols, and Tennessee has made finding edge rushers a priority in their last two recruiting classes. Jeremy Pruitt landed a few guys in his 2019 class that could go out wide and help the pass rush, but he has been looking for more in the 2020 class. Some of that comes from Taylor’s impending departure. Part of the urgency is also born of needing to find players that can apply consistent pressure from the edges in Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme. In the 3-4, the outside linebackers, like Taylor, are the premier pass rushers. The Vols have struggled at times this season to generate that rush off the edge, and they hope to add talent capable of doing that in this class. The Vols feel they may have found a diamond in the rough in that department in Jimari Butler out of Murphy High School (Mobile, AL).


Butler is a raw but physically gifted prospect. Standing at six feet five inches tall and weighing in around two hundred twenty five pounds, Butler certainly looks the part of an edge rushing outside linebacker.  Butler is a long athlete with long arms as well. He is blessed with excellent straight line speed and an explosive first step up out of his stance. Butler uses this speed and quickness to show a relentless player on film. He pursues the ball carrier from the time the ball is snapped through to the last whistle. Butler hounds quarterbacks, fighting through blockers, evading backs, and continuing to give chase even if a quarterback escapes his initial pursuit. When defending the read option, Butler also shows that same aggressive, determined attitude when pursuing ball carriers. On film, Butler shows the ability to patiently wait and read the play when he is required to, as well as the ability to attack the mesh point and make tackles for loss or force quarterbacks to make poor reads. At times, a quarterback will manage to give the ball off, and Butler has the quickness on his feet to make a tackle on a ball carrier from behind. While his physical gifts certainly help him make an impact on the game, Butler also shows impressive eye discipline when making those tackles. He also shows an impressive ability to diagnose plays, particularly when his time playing football is considered.


This season, his senior season at Murphy, is the first season Butler has played football. Everything, his position, technique, reads, and responsibilities are all brand new to him. Despite that, Butler has recorded eighteen sacks this season, and he has racked up double digit Power Five scholarship offers.  That only speaks to his talent. An athlete with a six foot five inch frame that runs a sub 4.6 forty-yard dash is going to make a certain amount of plays on his own. While Butler does lean on his excellent athleticism and size, he also makes good reads on defense while showing good situational awareness for a player that is so inexperienced.  That inexperience has undoubtedly led to some difficulties for Butler, and it has also impacted his recruitment, as some staffs will be pursuing a player that is a more finished product than Butler is.  That said, a staff that is confident in their ability to teach technique and develop talent will look at Butler and see incredible physical gifts in a player that they can shape from the ground up. Butler won’t have many bad habits to break, and he should be a player the Tennessee staff can use to show what they can build.


Butler is coming to Tennessee because he is a gifted pass rusher and a stout presence on the end of the line. Tennessee needs an impact pass rusher, and Butler fits the bill. Still, Butler is raw, though he finds ways to overcome inexperience on film. One of the biggest areas that this is evident in Butler is in his run defense. Butler has a bad habit of letting offensive tackles get into his body on run plays.  He allows tackles to get their hands on him and move him. In the high school ranks, Butler utilizes his strength to fight through the contact, scrape free of the blockers, and pursue the play from behind. In the SEC, as strong as Butler is, if he allows tackles to get their hands inside his shoulders, he is going to be driven out of the play and pancaked with regularity.  Butler’s arms are long enough that he should be able to maintain space between himself and the tackles trying to block him. At times, he shows it on film, using his strength to keep tackles at bay while he reads an option play, before giving them a shove, maintaining the space, and attacking the ball carrier. What Chris Rumph and Derrick Ansley are going to want to see and to develop in Butler is the technique and habit of doing that every play. Butler has an excellent wingspan, but he only utilizes it part of the time. When Butler uses his hands and long arms well, he can look unblockable coming off the edge. At times now, he can bull his way through blockers, even while his technique is inconsistent.


Despite the lapses in technique and what the Vols want to develop in him, Butler shows something on film inherent in himself that coaches love:. A motor that never quits. Butler makes hustle play after hustle play on film. When he starts on a play, he does not quit or give up. Multiple times he looks to be taken out of a play, blocked out, caught in the wash of offensive linemen as he pursues, or chasing a quarterback rolling away from him. These are plays where many guys allow themselves to stay blocked or ease up. They feel they are out of the play and don’t need to continue to press.  Butler on the other hand works himself back into plays he absolutely should be out of. He shows up at times on film from an unexpected angle or front that a ball carrier thought was taken care of.  Butler continues to hustle, continues to pressure, and is often rewarded with sacks or tackles for loss. He provides unrelenting pressure on an offensive scheme from the opening whistle to the last.  For a player with Butler’s physical gifts, that is a difficult presence to deal with indeed.


In Jimari Butler, Tennessee has found part of their solution for the future of the pass rush. How large a part of that future Butler will be depends on who else the Vols land in this class, but also in how well Butler handles coaching and his development.  Butler is an incredibly gifted athlete that will only see the impact of his talent multiply as he adds finer technique into his repertoire.  Butler is an incredible athlete with tape that flashes of greatness, but how he develops and hones that talent will determine how regularly that greatness shows up for the Orange and White. Still, Butler is physically the type of rusher the Vols cover, and his athletic ability will allow him to make an impact early, even at the SEC Level.

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Brandon Martin

Brandon Martin

Senior Recruiting Analyst

Brandon Martin is from the mountains of southeast Tennessee, a proud alumnus of ETSU, and has ended up living in Nashville after stints in Memphis and the Tri-Cities.

Football season takes him all over the Southeast, covering games in the Nashville-Middle Tennessee region, East Tennessee, Memphis-West Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia. He covers all things UT with a focus on Recruiting and Tennessee Basketball. If you see him at a game, please, come say hello.

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