Name: Evan Butts
Hometown: Philly-ish, PA
School: Episcopal Academy
24/7: 85, three stars; #44 TE, PA #32
ESPN: 75, three stars; #27 TE-Y, PA #31, East #141
Rivals: 5.5, three stars; PA #31
Scout: three stars; #40 TE
Other offers: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Navy, South Florida, Ohio, Army, Temple, Buffalo, UMass, Florida Atlantic, assorted FCS
The last time the coaching staff landed a dedicated tight end - as opposed to an athlete later converted into one - was nearly four years ago. That was when Zach Swanson, whom Stanford had more or less dropped a month or so before Signing Day, was hunting around for a landing spot and found a mutual fit at Virginia. So it wasn't really even totally on purpose, what with Mike London being less than two months into the job.
So for a school that prides itself somewhat on turning out high-level tight ends, it's nice to find one that's not a converted something else. Evan Butts plays defensive end as well for Episcopal, no less than you'd expect from a best-athlete-on-the-team type and a guy with a tight end build. He's kind of a one-trick pony at DE, though; nearly all his highlights showed the same move. Tight end it is.
Butts's strength, really, is his strength, which was his move at DE (shove the blocker backwards enough to create a space to get around toward the ball, a thing which won't work in college) and which should serve him well as a blocker on offense. ESPN says he's not a fast player and that's backed up by those highlights, which almost never have him breaking away from the pack. He's very comfortable in a crowd, though, with just enough quicks to separate enough to get open, and he's kind of gangly, which helps him reach for slightly-off passes and compensates somewhat for the fact that he's only 6'4", slightly on the short side for a TE.
The guru rankings here are remarkably consistent with each other and with Butts's offer list. What you see there is way on the high end of the consistency scale. Butts toured some of the various program camps this past summer and earned a couple offers that way; BC, for one. UVA's camp was the final stop on that tour. Not that surprising, when you think about it; Episcopal is part of the Inter-Academic League in the Philly suburbs, an association at least as well known for lacrosse talent as football. UVA is a destination school to a lot of students there, and the schools are all top-notch private schools.
So unlike many recruits, we ought to be able to pretty easily tell what we're getting here. A future all-ACC player - probably not. A future dependable cog - most probably. Zach Swanson's career path is a terrific guide, albeit hopefully without the ill-advised detour to fullback. Swanson also came in at 225 pounds and needed the first three years of his career to add the necessary bulk for TE. He's 30 pounds heavier now, and is easily the team's best blocking tight end as well as a perfectly legitimate receiving threat with 17 catches, a little under two per game.
It remains to be seen how Rob Burns and Mario Nixon develop at tight end, but since Swanson and Jake McGee are juniors, Butts is easily redshirtable. You never know anymore the way the coaches do things, but it seems likely. Afterwards Butts's playing time will probably depend on his physical development, and since 30 pounds don't come quickly, we may need to wait a little. What will get Butts on the field faster than his tight end skills is his skill as a long-snapper, something he does very well. Matt Fortin is a senior next year along with McGee and Swanson, so even if Butts doesn't play much on offense as a redshirt freshman, he'll have a role, and an important one, and better yet, the coaches don't have to fill a roster spot with a guy who can long-snap and long-snap only.