A pair of in-state Tennessee prospects impress at East-West Shrine practices

The Tennessee Titans’ season is over and they must now focus on the impending offseason. Free agency and the NFL draft looms large as general manager Jon Robinson must improve a roster that has failed to impress in the playoffs in two consecutive campaigns.

The 2022 NFL Draft all-star circuit has begun taking shape as Robinson and his scouts travel to Las Vegas and Mobile for this week’s East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. The former began practices on Saturday as several NFL draft hopefuls converged at UNLV’s lovely practice facility. Titans receiver Mason Kinsey was one of the big winners at the 2020 Shrine Bowl, and Robinson swiftly signed him in undrafted free agency. It’s fair to say the Titans will be paying close attention to this week’s festivities.

Several prospects impressed throughout Saturday’s inaugural practice, and a pair of in-state players were among the flashiest. Tennessee’s defensive tackle Matthew Butler made a lot of noise with his explosive get-off and active hands. A fifth-year senior, Butler had an impressive 2021 campaign for the Volunteers. Butler ranked second on the Volunteers with a career-best five sacks and also racked up an impressive 8.5 tackles for loss. The Titans are likely awfully familiar with Butler as a prospect, as they didn’t have to travel far in order to watch him play throughout the college football season. Butler now departs the Volunteers after appearing in 52 games with 25 starts.

Another in-state prospect boosted his draft stock on Saturday. Middle Tennessee State safety Reed Blankenship is likely a familiar name, as he’s been on the draft radar for several seasons now. Blankenship is (finally) a member of the 2022 draft class and he’s making the most of his all-star circuit opportunity. Blankenship experienced a terrific campaign in 2021, having started all 13 games while accumulating a team-high 110 tackles. Blankenship also recorded a career-best 10.0 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He’s an experienced leader that plays the game relentlessly while also showcasing a fairly diverse skill set. Blankenship has represented stability for the Blue Raiders program throughout the years, and continued that consistency in 2021 by playing a healthy 1,030 snaps on the back end of their defense. On Saturday, he showcased high-level communication skills and physicality.

Both Butler and Blankenship looked excellent throughout Saturday’s practice. Both players are a good bet to continue to improve their draft stock as we head towards the NFL Scouting Combine.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

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