In run defense, Vernon Butler is extremely inconsistent. When he doesn’t rise instantly off the snap, he can be quite effective controlling his blocker. The problem is that he too frequently gives up his advantage by not using his best attribute (his length) to his advantage. He has a considerable size advantage over most guards, but rarely did I see him using that on back-to-back plays.
This first play on this page is by far my favorite play by Vernon Butler. He does a fantastic job of controlling his blocker while reading the backfield. If his edge defender can hold the outside running lane better, this easily is a tackle for loss for the defense thanks thanks to Butler controlling both A- and B-gaps.
On stretch plays, Butler does a good job of keeping his feet moving, but he needs to keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage to fully utilize his strength and length. He gets a partial turn with his hips, but awkwardly attacks the line with his arms extended sideways. The second play is more concerning to me as he doesn’t even attempt the tackle watching the running back sprint right past him.
In goal line situations I would hope Butler would prosper using his power to control blockers. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Against Western Kentucky, the right guard gets underneath his pads and drives him backwards instantly after the snap allowing the running back a path into the endzone. This is a consistent problem Butler has at the point of attack. This is an excellent block by the right guard, but it’s no different than he’d face in the NFL on a routine basis. In order to win these battles, he needs to stay low and use his length to keep the right guard off of his chest plate.
Against double teams, Butler simply could not hold them. He gets bullied backwards as his pad level rises and he doesn’t keep his feet driving towards the blocker to sustain the block.
Just like in pass rush, Butler’s ability to learn the technique of the position will be crucial in his development. While Butler has all the tools to succeed, he is clearly the biggest project out of all the defensive lineman in consideration for a 1st round pick.
Pro Comparison and Draft Projection
Pro Comparison: Vernon Gholston/Muhammad Wilkerson. This is a rare dual comparison for me, becaused based purely on size and athleticism, he looks like Muhammad Wilkerson as both stand at 6’4″ 325 lbs with 35+ inch arms. With that in mind, I think his lack of refined technique makes me lean towards the Vernon Gholston comparison as both relied on effort and upper body strength to make plays in college.
Projected Round: Late First – Early Second Round.
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