Alabama's To'o To'o staying; Georgia's Cine and Dean leaving

Crimson Tide photos / Alabama junior middle linebacker Henry To'o To'o led the Crimson Tide in tackles this past season with 112 and announced Friday that he would return for his senior year.

Alabama junior middle linebacker Henry To'o To'o, who began his college football career with the Tennessee Volunteers, announced Friday afternoon that he will be back for more in Tuscaloosa.

The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder from Sacramento, California, led the Crimson Tide this past season with 112 tackles and also amassed eight tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble.

"God put me in a place that has welcomed me with open arms," To'o To'o posted on social media. "Alabama is my home now. I loved my experience this past season, but things didn't end how any of us wanted. We didn't achieve our ultimate goal, and I can't leave my brothers now knowing that we have unfinished business to attend to.

"Let's go to work in 2022."

Friday was quite the active day as far as decisions by players from both Alabama and Georgia, the two teams that played in Monday night's national championship game won by the Bulldogs, 33-18. Players have until Monday to declare their intentions to enter the NFL draft.

Joining To'o To'o in deciding to return to Alabama were junior safeties Jordan Battle and DeMarco Hellams, redshirt junior guard Emil Ekiyor and junior defensive linemen DJ Dale and Byron Young. Deciding to move on to the NFL were junior receiver John Metchie, redshirt junior receiver Slade Bolden, senior cornerback Josh Jobe and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis, with Jobe and Mathis declining to use the NCAA's extra year implemented after the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Junior left tackle Evan Neal and junior receiver Jameson Williams revealed Thursday that they would be bypassing their senior seasons.

Georgia's player exodus Friday consisted of junior inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, junior safety Lewis Cine, junior defensive lineman Travon Walker, junior receiver George Pickens and redshirt junior running back Zamir White. Dean was the recipient of this past season's Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, racking up 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and two interceptions.

Cine was the defensive MVP of Monday night's championship contest.

"This journey has been one for the history books," Cine posted on social media.

Announcing his return to Athens was senior safety Christopher Smith, who will use the NCAA's extra year. Smith made 11 starts this past season and collected 34 tackles and three interceptions.

Smith's first interception was returned 73 yards for a touchdown and served as the biggest play in Georgia's 10-3 season-opening win over Clemson in Charlotte, North Carolina. His third interception occurred Monday night at the expense of Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.