Alabama football has had some outstanding middle linebackers in the Nick Saban era.
Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower, C.J. Mosley, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Rashaan Evans were national champions and great leaders. Each one captained a defense that was ranked No. 1 in college football for major categories. McClain got Saban his first national title in 2009, Hightower anchored the Crimson Tide best group in 2011, Foster had the 2016 unit that forced many turnovers, and Evans pushed the unit that defeated Georgia for a national title in 2017.
Alabama has struggled at the middle linebacker spot in the last two years. Injuries plagued it in 2019; however, Dylan Moses returned the following year and was not himself.
During the offseason, the Tide landed an elite player from the NCAA transfer portal. Henry To’oto’o, a native of Sacramento, Calif., spent his last two seasons at Tennessee. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder was targeted for Alabama’s 2019 signing class but chose the Volunteers. He collected 148 tackles and 15 tackles for loss in that span while earning Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-American honors. Coach Saban is thrilled to have him in Tuscaloosa, and he spoke on what To’oto’o brings to the team at SEC Football Media Days. To’oto’o is a special talent on the field and a better leader in the locker room. He was taught by Jeremy Pruitt, a Saban disciple, which means he is familiar with the concepts of Alabama’s defense. To’oto’o is competing against Jaylen Moody (senior) for the starting middle linebacker role. On Sunday, Pete Golding offered high praise to his latest addition.
“We brought in a transfer, that from a leadership standpoint, is above and beyond anything I’ve ever had,” Golding said of To’oto’o. “The familiarity that he’s already had with this defense, coming where he’s from, it has been good for us.”
When the Southeastern Conference approved the intraconference transfer rule, Tide fans rejoiced because it meant To’oto’o would be eligible to play this season. Alabama has depth at inside linebacker, and fans expect To’oto’o to communicate the signals from the middle of the defense. The Tide anticipates being elite again, and having To’oto’o gives it a chance to be good.
He looks to help Golding achieve the standard of allowing 13 points or less to opponents.
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