Notre Dame football hires Butler Benton as its new player personnel director

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — For Butler Benton III, hired away from Arkansas as Notre Dame football’s new director of player personnel, building relationships is vital to a successful recruiting operation.

“I’ve always enjoyed the personal relationships and contacts and just talking to (recruits) before the game and being able to spend time with them,” Benton said in December of 2020 while working at Georgia Southern. “Making sure you’re genuine, true to who you are … finding a way to stay in contact, stay connected … and using every avenue we can.”

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Benton, 39, is a former Cincinnati running back who spent the last two years as general manager for the Razorbacks and coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas went 16-10 with a pair of bowl victories and its last two recruiting classes ranked 22nd and 28th nationally, according to 247 Sports.

At Notre Dame, where Benton spent 13 months as assistant director of player development in 2013-14, Benton won’t have the GM title, but he will be an assistant athletic director. The hire, first reported Monday by 247 Sports, was confirmed by a person with direct knowledge.

Benton spent two years as a graduate assistant at Kent State (2011-13) during Marcus Freeman’s tenure as a linebackers coach.

Benton later spent four seasons at Michigan State (2016-20) during Mark Dantonio’s tenure, including the last three as director of recruiting/player personnel coordinator.

Benton follows longtime personnel director Dave Peloquin, who was promoted in February to assistant athletic director/football strategic initiatives.

Butler Benton III will be Notre Dame football’s new director of player personnel, sources confirmed on Monday, April 17, 2023.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, in a Feb. 23 university-sponsored podcast, divulged an ongoing search for “sort of a general manager for roster purposes.” Swarbrick suggested the pseudo-GM could “help bring a lot of different pieces together that aren’t necessarily connected as well as they should be right now.”

Swarbrick also said the proposed hire would be “an important conduit” within the football program for the rapidly changing dynamics of name, image and likeness (NIL).

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A standout running back at Detroit’s King High School and the University of Cincinnati (2004-07), Benton was a college teammate of current Notre Dame assistants Mike Mickens (cornerbacks/pass-defense coordinator) and Gino Guidugli (quarterbacks).

“He’s a great person, great human, works hard,” Mickens said of Benton. “It’s going to be good to have him.”

At Cincinnati, where Benton played for both Dantonio and Brian Kelly (2007), Benton finished with nearly 2,100 career yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. That included two trips to Ohio State during Freeman’s playing career, when the future Notre Dame coach was a star linebacker.

Oct 28, 2006; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats runningback (23) Butler Benton rushes against the Syracuse Orange at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, OH. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) Frank Victores

Benton rushed three times for three yards in his college debut in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 14, 2004. As a junior in 2006, the Buckeyes held Benton to a season-low 13 yards on five carries.

Asked his favorite Benton story, Mickens smiled.

“Back then, I was only a buck 70 and he was about 220-something (pounds),” Mickens said. “I didn’t want to cross too many paths with him (as far as) tackling. He was a great player, great energy, brought a lot of energy to the team. He was very productive. He was playing since he was a true freshman.”

With the spring transfer window for undergraduates open through April 30, Benton must hit the ground running as Notre Dame considers adding further depth through the transfer portal. Safety is considered the biggest area of need, according to public comments by Freeman and his assistants.  

“You have to let your personality come out through the phone, cracking jokes and things like that, here and there,” Benton said in December of 2020. “For me it’s having knowledge of the university and our program — what we’re about, our culture — and then being able to communicate that while still building genuine relationships with the student-athletes.”

That applies, Benton said in the interview, to both high school recruiting and the transfer portal.

“It adds a different element to where it’s almost now you have to split the department and there’s a college scouting side to it now,” Benton said. “You have to be aware of the transfer portal.”

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Hired by Arkansas in February of 2021, Benton saw the Hogs’ last two high school recruiting classes finish 13th and ninth out of 14 Southeastern Conference schools. Arkansas also ranked 14th overall in net transfer portal rankings this offseason.

“Very rarely do I pay attention to the recruiting class rankings,” Benton said during his Georgia Southern tenure. “When we’re recruiting, we focus on what we see on film, how we see that translating to our team and how that young man fits as a player and as a person in our program.

“We don’t necessarily try to make the decisions based on what the players are ranked, so I’m not sure what the majority of our guys are ranked. I know what I saw on film and what I liked about them as players on the field.”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.

Notre Dame Football Blue-Gold Game 

  • What: Annual Blue-Gold Game scrimmage to conclude spring practice 
  • When: Saturday, April 22 at 2 p.m. EDT 
  • Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,622), South Bend, Ind. 
  • TV: Game will be streamed live on NBCUniversal’s Peacock Network 
  • Radio: WSBT (960 AM) 
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