There was a time, not that long ago, that Alabama linebacker Henry To’oto’o would have been stuck at Tennessee. College coaches were always allowed to come and go as they wished, but players were bound by various rules that didn’t allow them to receive financial aid, play immediately or both.
Those times are in the past. So is To’oto’o’s time at Tennessee. The linebacker from Sacramento, Calif., took a chance on former UT coach Jeremy Pruitt. That didn’t go very well. Fortunately for To’oto’o, the NCAA changed its transfer rules and allowed him to go to Alabama. To’oto’o didn’t have to undergo a coaching transition that occurred when the Vols fired Pruitt with more cause than you’ll find ‘O’s’ in this column.
Things might have worked out well for To’oto’o had he stayed at Tennessee. In retrospect, the unknown coach from Central Florida has done alright. However, Alabama was more of a sure thing at the time.
Since transferring to Alabama before the 2021 season, things have certainly worked out well for To’oto’o after two seasons at UT.
“Henry has been a really good player ever since he’s been in college,” Tennessee center Cooper Mays said. “You can see him flying around a lot more now. He’s very quick to his reads. He’s very athletic and can run and plays his responsibilities so it’s exciting to go against somebody you know over there.”
It may be exciting, but is it weird playing against a former Vol?
“I wouldn’t say it’s weird,” UT linebacker Aaron Beasley said. “It’s a little abnormal I guess since he was here for two years and now he’s over there. It’s all love. It’s just how it goes. It’s all a business.”
To’oto’o has been named to about every linebacker and defensive player award watch list that you can imagine. He calls the defensive plays for the Crimson Tide. He could have left after the 2021 season to go to the NFL. He decided he liked it at Alabama. One move was enough.
The move might not have been good for the Vols, but it was good for To’oto’o and it was good for college football players everywhere. There’s certainly something to be said for “sticking it out” in tough times. However, there is also a limited amount of time to play football, especially in college.
It may sting a bit seeing To’oto’o make plays in crimson instead of orange, but it’s hard to argue his decision to seek shelter elsewhere after the mess he was a part of under Pruitt.