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Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Former Tennessee linebacker Henry To'o To'o hasn't taken long to impress his new teammates at Alabama.

Only three of Henry To'o To'o's 148 tackles the past two seasons came at the expense of Alabama players.

He's about to remedy that in Tuscaloosa scrimmages.

The former Tennessee linebacker dealt the biggest defensive blow to the Volunteers this past offseason by entering the NCAA transfer portal and winding up, of all places, with the longtime rival Crimson Tide. To'o To'o was a prominent face of Tennessee's program a year ago under former Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt, and the same characteristics that led to early playing time in Knoxville are shining through at Alabama.

"He's been great," sophomore linebacker Will Anderson said this week on a Zoom call. "He communicates a lot, and if you do something wrong, he's going to step on your toes about it. He's a very great communicator, and he knows the defense well, too, so he's helping the younger guys.

"He's being a great leader and a great player."

Abundant praise for To'o To'o isn't limited to just the players, with third-year defensive coordinator Pete Golding describing the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder's leadership as "above and beyond from a transfer standpoint from what I've ever had." Golding added that To'o To'o having played under Pruitt, Alabama's defensive coordinator during the 2016-17 seasons, has made the transition between programs with a combined 41 Southeastern Conference titles easier.

After Wednesday's practice, head coach Nick Saban referred to To'o To'o as bright, conscientious and instinctive. Saban added that To'o To'o and two seniors, Christian Harris and Jaylen Moody, are providing good competition at the inside linebacker spots.

To'o To'o was a top-50 national prospect in the 2019 recruiting cycle out of Sacramento, California, when he picked Tennessee over Alabama. He had an instant impact with the Vols, starting 12 games and compiling 72 tackles, which ranked second among SEC freshmen and fourth among freshmen in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision.

His sophomore season began with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown during the second quarter at South Carolina, a rather significant play in Tennessee's 31-27 opening win, and he would amass 76 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 10 games.

To'o To'o entered the transfer portal on the heels of Pruitt's termination in January. Though his father said that Alabama was his likely destination, reports surfaced that Ohio State might be his favorite, but To'o To'o committed to the Tide on May 8.

"I think he's doing a really good job right now," Harris said. "He came in and worked really hard, and he's blending in really well with our linebacker room and our defense as a whole. He's doing a great job of learning and catching on to the plays and progressing."

 

Tide tidbits

Alabama will practice in full pads for the first time Thursday and will scrimmage for the first time Saturday. ... Saban said junior tight end Jahleel Billingsley is back practicing after missing time due to COVID-19 protocols. ... Redshirt junior receiver Xavier Williams will not play this season due to undisclosed medical reasons. ... When asked about his return specialists, Saban said JoJo Earle, Ja'Corey Brooks and Slade Bolden were in the mix for punt returns, while Camar Wheaton and Ohio State transfer Jameson Williams were among those vying for kickoff returns.

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

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