Jimari Butler could have gotten caught up in the moment.
The pass-rushing force from Mobile (Ala.) Murphy High School thought about committing to Nebraska during his official visit Dec. 7. It would have been easy to do when coach Scott Frost flew down to see him a few days later.
But the 6-foot-5, 217-pound defender held off, insisting that he keep his word to TCU and take a scheduled trip there. By Saturday night — when he was still in north Texas — Butler decided he wasn’t feeling it. He texted Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander to call him, then broke the news.
He’s going to be a Husker.
“Coach was fired up,” Butler told The World-Herald. “Real happy.”
The consensus three-star prospect let the rest of the world in on his decision Monday on social media as Nebraska continued its torrid pace of talent acquisition ahead of Wednesday’s early signing period. Butler is the 19th known pledge of the 2020 class, and fifth the past week.
Butler’s recruiting process has been as unorthodox as any of them. A 4-inch growth spurt as a freshman prompted him to swap out football for basketball. He returned to the gridiron this fall with no offers at the urging of his new coach, who saw a quick first step and a frame that has yet to fill out.
The result was 18-plus sacks — using the kind of speed that helped him run the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds at a Nike regional camp last summer — and eventually double-digit offers. He committed to Tennessee on Nov. 8 but backed off that pledge following his official visit to Nebraska a month later.
Butler remembers when the Huskers offered because he was unofficially visiting the Vols for their contest against Georgia. He started watching Nebraska games, thinking he could make a difference.
“Pass rushing. I didn’t see too much of it,” Butler said. “But the defensive scheme set up how I like it.”
Defensive end? Outside linebacker? Hybrid? Nebraska simply calls Butler an “edge rusher.” He can stand up or put down a hand on the line of scrimmage. He’s comfortable dropping back in coverage, too.
The talented but raw prospect also had offers including Kansas, Mississippi, Illinois and Maryland. Coaches tell him they’re drawn to his relentless motor. Nebraska wants him to gain around 25 pounds to reach 235. He’ll graduate in May, though he laughs that he’s ready to be on campus now.
Don’t expect too many big celebrations on big hits — he likes to make the play, shake everyone’s hands, then do it again. But his favorite moments, his purpose on the field, fit well with what Nebraska seeks.
“Gotta be the sacks,” Butler said. “Gotta be the sacks.”
Eight of Nebraska’s past nine commits have been defenders, and that doesn’t count Lincoln Southeast safety Isaac Gifford, who accepted a “blueshirt” offer Monday. NU this week already added three linebacker prospects in Keyshawn Greene (Crawfordville, Florida) and junior college players Niko Cooper (Hutchinson) and Eteva Mauga-Clements (Diablo Valley). The school also has Junior Aho (New Mexico Military Institute) and Blaise Gunnerson (Carroll, Iowa) at the position.
Nebraska continues to recruit four-star outside ’backer Kaden Johnson out of Minneapolis, as well.
These are the players who built Nebraska football.
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