Freshman Focus: Devin Butler

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After looking at one of the highest profile recruits in the 2013 class, we focus on one of the most under-the-radar members of the #IrishMob. That’s to take nothing away from Washington D.C.’s Devin Butler, who fits the role of a perfect profile recruit.

From a size perspective, Butler delivers everything defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and co-coordinator, cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks likes. At a reported 6-foot-1, Butler has the length this staff covets. He brings the type of speed and athleticism you’d expect in an Irish cornerback prospect, with return game skills and ability a talented prep wide receiver.

Yet Butler might be his most impressive off the field. Coming from Gonzaga Prep, he’s a talented player at a school that has the opportunity to be very friendly to Notre Dame.

“What we really love about recruiting at Gonzaga is that these young men understand what it’s like to be here at Notre Dame,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “They’re in that kind of faith‑based environment. They understand that they’re going to be challenged in the classroom, so these are easy fits for us in the recruiting process.”

From an RKG perspective, Butler also fulfills that quota in spades. He plays for his older brother, who survived being shot five times in the back, and now watches all of Devin’s games from a wheelchair.

“I feel like I’m playing not only for myself but for him too,” Butler told a local news reporter last November. “He likes to say he walks through me.”

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Butler isn’t a consensus Top 250 player, but does check in at No. 189 for 247 Sports, his highest rating. But if you’re looking for a reason to be bullish on Butler’s prospects, it’s the early offers he garnered before taking himself off the market back in April, ten full months before Signing Day.

Butler had just picked up offers from Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, North Carolina and Maryland, but ended his recruitment after a spring trip to South Bend. (His high school coach said Alabama had just begun calling as well.)

With his length and reported speed, his recruiting cohorts should be a nice data-point for success.

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

With a top three of Bennett Jackson, KeiVarae Russell, and Lo Wood well established, Butler fighting his way into the starting lineup like Russell did last season probably isn’t realistic. But there’s plenty of chances for Butler to see the field next season.

While it isn’t as dire as last season, there’s still a need, with depth behind those three up for grabs and Kelly believing Butler can fill in.

“He’s an exciting player that’s going to come in and compete immediately,” Kelly said of Butler on Signing Day.

It’ll be interesting to see how the freshman trio of cornerback recruits meshes with established veterans Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown, who have a battle on their hands to not slip between the cracks.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

Without seeing a high school cornerback mesh with the college game, it’s hard to say Butler is destined for stardom or reserve role. But he certainly has the tools the coaching staff looks for in a cornerback, and his early offer and commitment says quite a bit about what the staff sees in Butler.

Looking into the future, the 2013 group of Butler, Rashad Kinlaw and Cole Luke have the opportunity to play a key role in the secondary after the previous recruiting classes were dedicated to shoring up the safety position.

Both Wood an Russell will be around in 2014 (assuming a fifth year for Wood), but after that it’s anybody’s guess how this shakes out. If we’ve seen anything, it’s that the Irish prefer to use three corners, which makes the 2012 campaign all the more impressive.

All three freshman are intriguing athletes. While the smart money is on Luke making an impact early, there’s a lot to like about Butler, who might be one of the sleepers of the class.