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Irish A-to-Z: Devin Butler

Jun 5, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

As Notre Dame moves forward with Brian VanGorder as the Irish defensive coordinator, a revisionist history is being written. With Diaco now at UConn, a small but vocal minority of fans have begun to wonder just how effective Diaco was as one of Brian Kelly’s most trusted assistants.

Whether that’s out of support for VanGorder or just the general reaction by football fans looking at a coach in the rearview mirror, the rancor is more than apparent when considering Diaco the recruiter. Diaco was one of the Irish coaching staff’s firmest believers in recruiting to a profile. While that may have limited the Irish from targeting some players they likely regret passing on, Diaco also deserves credit for the times sticking to the profile worked.

And in the recruitment of Devin Butler, Diaco identified and found a developmental prospect that has quickly turned into a very good player. The three-star prospect from the D.C. area saw the field early and often for the Irish as a freshman and looks to contribute to a very talented secondary.

Let’s take a closer look at Devin Butler.


6’0.5″, 181 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 12



Perhaps it was a reality-based 40-yard dash time, but Butler’s three-star rating likely came because of the 4.64 that was listed after his name. Measuring close to the 6-foot-1 that he was listed as during his recruitment, Butler’s offer list includes a lot of impressive schools, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin among them.

Butler helped fill a need at the position, joining Cole Luke and the now-departed Rashad Kinlaw. While Kelly said nothing noteworthy about Butler even during his Signing Day press conference, a nice mix of size and athleticism — not to mention a depth chart in need — helped Butler onto the field quickly and to leap frog players like Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown and Lo Wood.



Freshman Season (2013): Appeared in 12 games, missing only the Purdue game. Made five tackles while appearing as both a cornerback and special teams performer. Broke up a pass against Pitt.



Butler sat out for most of spring drills after getting shoulder surgery after last season. That didn’t give us much of a look at him as he battled for the job opening with Bennett Jackson gone to the NFL, but it’s pretty clear that Butler is going to play in this secondary.

That alone is better than most expected, especially at a position that’s so deep and talented on the Irish roster. What remains to be seen is if Butler has the chops to play both inside and out, and if he’s a more versatile option than a guy like Matthias Farley.

It’s hard to call a freshman season with five tackles and one pass breakup a true success. But the fact that Butler was the guy jumping veterans on the depth chart to contribute as the season went on gives you an idea that he’s got the chops to get it done, and we’ll see how much Brian VanGorder and Kerry Cooks trust him as he transitions to a job that’ll have him playing more man defense than he ever did under Diaco.



It’s hard to see Butler moving into the starting lineup until KeiVarae Russell is gone. That could be after 2014, if we’re to believe that Russell is ready to be the elite defender some think he already is. (I tend to think the truth is somewhere in the middle with Russell, who is coming off a great game against Rutgers but still has game tape where Jeremy Gallon’s cleat marks are up and down his back.)

How good is Butler? We will see as the youth and talent continues to accumulate on this roster. Right now, he’s behind Cole Luke and Cody Riggs. But there’s a place for him now in sub-packages and you can never have enough healthy corners, and Butler’s going to use this summer to make up for lost time this spring.

With Butler’s length, he gives Brian VanGorder a traditional cornerback prospect. That never goes out of style and for that reason alone he’s the type of athletic, long cover man that all football teams covet.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant


  1. irishwilliamsport - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Diaco was no Pat Narduzzi or Kirby Smart. He had one great year out of 4 with all that talent. I still can’t get the pasting Navy gave us out of my mind where afterward he said we just didn’t have an answer and the 2 play touchdown at Michigan lose the game. Wish him well but VanGorder is going to show us something about defense..

    • danirish - Jun 5, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      I remember attending a lot of Georgia games when he was the DC – monster defense plus great talent.

      Man, I remember when Kirby Smart played…..getting old.

      As for Diaco – what pasting from Navy are you talking about?

      (This is Danirish’s ego, I’ve blocked out the Navy pasting, hurts too much!)

  2. yaketyyacc - Jun 5, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    enough of he loves Notre Dame, he loves it not…… it is bad enough to deal with the conjectures that present themselves leading up to the 2014 season. at least, here we are dealing with committed players. still at the letter “B”, the scene that is developing indicates a more then credible season on the horizon. with Devin Butler a third position man, it is apparent the Irish are more then loaded, and with the coaching staff, now anchored defensively with Van Gorder, good results will happen.

  3. fnc111 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    Ah maaaan, had to mention that Pitt game. 2013 Pitt/2011 Mich, those games will be haunting forever. Why Tommy, why? That’s all I can remember.

    During the draft coverage I saw some highlights with Cody Riggs in them. Let’s hope Butler or Luke are ready is all I have to say.

    • irishwilliamsport - Jun 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      How about 2013 Pitt game with Nix and Tuitt batting the fumble forward not realizing it was a fumble and could have waltzed into the end zone and game over.

      • ndfenian - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        Tuitt had already been ejected from the game for a very controversial targeting penalty.

  4. fnc111 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Bennett Jackson is the CB that had his jockstrap on the ground all night against Tiny Gallon last year.

  5. upthera44 - Jun 5, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    Diaco was a good coach. It is revisionist. Just look at statistical comparisons. He was also an inspiring coach that the players loved.

    Also I gotta wonder when people talk about how ‘loaded’ we are when talking about players like Devin Butler. Do you think fans of SEC teams are getting this excited about players like Devin Butler? Anyway, he seems like a player with potential and a good kid, so I hope he continues to develop.

    • onward2victory - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:41 AM

      Yes, yes, and yes!! Agree on all points!

  6. mtflsmitty - Jun 6, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    Seems to me an important part of ND’s recruiting profile is finding guys with last names starting with “B”.

  7. domerboyirish - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    We are STILL on the letter B! Damn it! Who’s next? “Bueller? Bueller?…”

  8. 4horsemenrideagain - Jun 6, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.

  9. mattymill - Jun 6, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Not to change the subject, but it seems ok when the article is not about one of ND starring players. So as an avid Irish & Bears fan, I got a smile yesterday upon the news that Jimmy Clausen signed with the Bears. Which leads me to this question. Admittedly being an Irish homer, I always feel that ND’s star players will be better NFL players than they turn out to be. That being said, I truly did think that both Quinn & Clausen were good enough to at least be starters in the league. I have never seen a college QB as accurate as Clausen was in his Junior year. Any other Irish fans find themselves in the same boat as me, or were you of the camp that both Quinn/Clausen would flame out in the NFL? Go Irish! Daaa Bears!

    • mtflsmitty - Jun 6, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      Matty, Interesting post.

      The smartest NFL execs spend tons of money to understand all that is knowable, and their success rates suggest they don’t know much more than you or me. They aren’t dumb, and you’re not blinded by being a homer. It’s just really hard to know how a guy’s going to adapt to all the changes on and off the field. Even harder trying to predict success HS to college I think.

      Have a great weekend.

    • ndfenian - Jun 9, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      I thought Quinn would be a great starting QB, but he was certainly not a bust as he played in the league for 8 years. Made a lot of money, I saw him the other day as an analyst. He’s done fine.

      • timetomovetotoronto - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        I hate it when people say that Quinn was a total failure in the NFL, those ppl should remember that he was unwillingly taken in the draft that year by the Cleveland Browns, the one team that goes through quarterbacks faster than McDonald’s goes through cheeseburgers. Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson are both long gone too so naysayers cannot pin the blame on Quinn, yet they do anyways…where is Quinn now?

  10. ndfenian - Jun 9, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Analyst on ESPN that is.

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