Every now and then a prospect comes along that provides not only a sense of excitement, but one of insurance, as well. There are some kids that you just know will succeed no matter what happens in their career.
Henry To’o To’o is that type of prospect. There was a ton of buzz surrounding the kid as he entered his freshman year and he lived up to the hype.
Now, it’s time for him to take the next step in 2020. And if he does, then it will help Tennessee’s defense take the next step, as well.
Henry To’o To’o’s 2019 Season
Final stat line: 72 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, 5 TFLs, 0.5 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FR
To’o To’o is coming off a true freshman season in which he finished as the Vols’ second-leading tackler and tied for the 20th-most combined tackles and solo tackles in the SEC. His knack for reading offenses and flowing to the ball was a big reason why Jeremy Pruitt wanted him so badly, and To’o To’o did not disappoint in 2019.
72 total tackles isn’t a world-beating stat (it’s good for the 274th-most total tackles in the country), but one has to keep in mind that To’o To’o played through several injuries on top of learning a complex defense as a true freshman. Former Vol Daniel Bituli was also the team’s leader on defense, but now that torch is passed to To’o To’o, who should see his numbers and productivity increase in large fashion in 2020.
He’s shown throughout the course of his football career that he is a tough, natural leader as well as a superb athlete. All of that —and more— was on display in 2019.
What needs to happen for To’o To’o to take the next step in 2020?
I mean, all he needs to do is keep playing with the same style that he played with in 2019 and everything should be fine, especially now with Bituli out of the picture. Everything is set up perfectly for this kid to have a monster year.
But if we are going to get specific, I’d say pass coverage is where he could improve the most. To’o To’o has even discussed this topic the most. It’s all about reading keys as a middle linebacker and a lot of times the position is defending the middle of the field in Pruitt’s defense. The sophomore linebacker had some issues with guarding guys in space and the Georgia State game is a good example even if To’o To’o did make major strides in his play after the season-opening debacle.
He could also get better at rushing the passer. Now granted, his sack numbers will be mostly based off of the defensive play-calling of Derrick Ansley and/or Pruitt, but he still has to get there when his number is called. That’s all on him. Developing a nice repertoire of pass-rush moves and counters over the next few years would serve him nicely.
And even though Bituli is out of the picture, you have to wonder how To’o To’o will handle the load on his own. Granted, he will have a good running mate in Quavaris Crouch, J.J. Peterson or one of the other middle linebackers and an improved defensive line, but how To’o To’o handles everything as the guy will certainly go a long way in determining how far he can go this year.
Upping the ante in the passing game and showing that he can be the sole leader —and quarterback— of the defense are certainly the two biggest boxes for To’o To’o to check in 2020.
Everything is set up perfectly for To’o To’o to have a big year. From the defensive scheme to his skill set to a big opportunity, you really have to search hard for something that could keep this kid from reaching his potential.
I think it’s safe to say that you should expect To’o To’o to lead the team in tackles at minimum and for him to develop into the leader of the defense. Now, I’m not saying 2020 will be deemed a failure if those two goals aren’t reached, but there’s little reason to think he can’t get the job done in those regards.
Give me all the futures bets on To’o To’o in 2020. He will be one of the best linebackers in the SEC when it’s all said and done this year.
What do you think? Will Henry To’o To’o have a breakout season in 2020? Let us know via the poll and/or comment section below!
Will Henry To’o To’o have a breakout season in 2020?
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