KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee freshmen of Team 121 have begun to settle into their respective positions, but Brady Hoke still hasn’t found the right place for Matthew Butler.
But Hoke says there’s a good chance Butler will fit somewhere in the rotation this season.
The 6-foot-4, 274-pound Butler has shown his versatility by receiving reps at defensive tackle and end through the first seven practices of fall camp.
Hoke made it clear on Sunday he has been impressed by Butler’s work ethic and effort.
Matthew Butler makes Tennessee D-line deeper and more versatile
“We’re just trying to see where he’ll fit best,” Hoke said. “I would like to roll 10 guys to a football game up front. We’ll see where it all shakes out as we get closer to the end of fall ball. Butler and Kivon Bennett have done a good job so far. Again, we have a long way to go.”
Tennessee experienced attrition from injuries throughout in 2016. The Vols lost 17 starters to injury through the course of the season.
The coaching staff wants to add depth through the freshmen on the roster in case of injuries again.
“I think you will, and I think that’s part of it,” Hoke said. “You play a long schedule. The one thing with freshmen is you got to bring them along little slow. At the same time, we’ve got to put as much pressure on them as we can.”
Still, Tennessee won’t rely on Butler or any freshman on the defensive line too much this season.
“Most freshmen during the course of a season hit a brick wall because of the academics and the responsibilities,” Hoke said. “I think there are a couple of guys who may be able to. I’m not talking about 30 snaps, I’m talking about 15 snaps. To keep people healthy or keep someone fresh on the field.”
The Vols shouldn’t have turn to Butler for meaningful fourth-quarter snaps this season. The defensive line returns many experienced players in Jonathan Kongbo, Kahlil McKenzie, Kendal Vickers, Darrell Taylor and Kyle Phillips.
Nonetheless, Butler has the versatility to fit in anywhere on the line if the need arises.