The Tennessee Vols will return a veteran squad in 2019 with the exception of one position group — the defensive line.

Kyle Phillips, Alexis Johnson and Shy Tuttle, the Vols’ top three defensive lineman from a year ago, are all gone. That means there will be plenty of opportunities for newcomers, and veterans who didn’t see much action, to shine.

Junior defensive lineman Matthew Butler is one of those veterans.

And he’s apparently making the most of his opportunity.

UT defensive line coach Tracy Rocker told reporters on Wednesday that Butler is the player who has impressed him the most this spring.

The Raleigh, NC native has appeared in 17 games for the Vols during his first two years on Rocky Top. During that time period, Butler has compiled 17 total tackles, including 13 last season.

Butler, 6-foot-4/285 lbs, certainly has the talent to make a huge impact defensively for the Vols in 2019. The former four-star recruit was rated by 247Sports as the No. 8 player in the state of North Carolina in the 2017 recruiting class.

Now that Phillips, Tuttle and Johnson are gone, Butler can receive his fair share of first team reps during practice, which should help his development tremendously.

There’s no doubt the Volunteers need some defensive lineman to step up in a big way in 2019. The only way to win in the SEC is to dominate the line of scrimmage.

As of now, the biggest question mark for Tennessee, aside from their offensive line, is their defensive line. They don’t have many “known commodities” at the position.

Butler, however, could end up being a key part of Tennessee’s defensive front next season.

I’d even go as far as saying that for the Vols to be successful next season, Butler needs to have a breakout season.

No pressure or anything, Matthew.

Featured image via USA Today/Randy Sartin
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