If you’ve paid attention to the news coming out of fall camp, then you should know all about freshman linebacker Henry To’oto’o.
The four-star linebacker out of California has done nothing but turn heads this offseason, which comes as no surprise since we’re talking about the same kid who was deemed “the best linebacker prospect in years” by Tennessee’s coaching staff.
There’s no doubt about it: the Vols fought hard to win To’oto’o’s commitment, and that perseverance — plus a little luck — is paying off so far in fall camp.
To’oto’o has emerged as one of the best players on defense. Multiple outlets have stated that he has flashed just about every ounce of ability that made him so sought after during the 2019 recruiting cycle.
Jeremy Pruitt with glowing remarks on freshman ILB Henry To’oto’o. Said the former Top 100 prospect is “what you’re looking for in a LB.”— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) August 7, 2019
Noted that To’oto’o is smart, instinctive, can cover, can already make the calls and is a three-down guy.
GoVols 247 currently has To’oto’o listed as one of the starting inside linebackers, which backs up the tweet on display from a few days ago.
So, assuming he’s the starter on opening day, how much of an impact can To’oto’o have on this defense?
The answer is simple — A big one.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound true freshman possesses every required trait to be an effective middle linebacker at the collegiate level. He has the instincts, awareness, IQ, range, speed, tackling ability, etc. to get the job done.
He made a living taking down opposing quarterbacks in the backfield, evidenced by his team-leading sack numbers at the end of his senior year. But as mentioned before, he’s not just a missile to launch at an offensive line. He can drop back in coverage and make plays from sideline to sideline.
Simonton’s tweet also mentions his ability to make the correct defensive calls, which is excellent news. To’oto’o already demonstrated major leadership skills in high school, so it should come as no surprise that he is an effective communicator. Don’t forget the impressive fact that he has been able to pick up the defense this quickly, either. His IQ was one of the first traits that Jeremy Pruitt noticed, so it’s nice to see it come to fruition.
Aside from ability, he also brings depth to the inside linebacker position. Daniel Bituli — the other projected starter on the inside — made the calls last year. Having two players that can command the defense is integral for a position that involves a good amount of volatility when it comes to injury. When you add Will Ignot, J.J. Peterson, Shanon Reid, and Solon Page, the Vols suddenly have a pretty deep corps to rely on this year.
There’s no doubt that To’oto’o can help the Vols’ defense in 2019.
It’s just a matter of how much.
Check out To’oto’o’s highlights from his junior year in high school. You won’t be disappointed.