Inside linebacker Henry To'o To'o has decided to challenge Tennessee after all, not to mention the Southeastern Conference rule on intraconference football transfers.
To'o To'o, who led the Volunteers with 76 tackles and 10 tackles for loss last season before entering the NCAA transfer portal in January after the termination of former coach Jeremy Pruitt, announced Saturday that he will continue his career at Alabama. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Sacramento, California, revealed the decision on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, posting "God THANK YOU" on Twitter with an accompanying picture of him in a No. 11 Crimson Tide jersey.
The top-50 national prospect in the 2019 signing class picked Tennessee over Alabama out of De La Salle High School, and his father, Lese, told 247Sports.com in February that Tuscaloosa was the likely destination.
"I think he's leaning towards Alabama — I mean heavily leaning towards Alabama," the elder To'o To'o said. "All the other SEC schools reached out to him, too. One thing that we talked about was that we chose Tennessee the first time when we should have come to Alabama, so let's not make this mistake twice."
Ohio State came in second this time around for the services of To'o To'o, who has up to three seasons of eligibility remaining due to the extra year the NCAA is allowing because of the coronavirus.
To'o To'o earned Freshman All-America honors in 2019, when he started 12 of 13 games and racked up 72 tackles, which ranked fourth nationally among Football Bowl Subdivision freshmen. He also had five tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, and a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown in the win at South Carolina last September jump-started his sophomore year.
The potential of To'o To'o leaving was evident before Pruitt's exit, with Pruitt even flying out to California to meet with him days before the firing.
Now the question becomes To'o To'o's availability for this season. The SEC has prohibited immediate eligibility for football players who transfer from one league school to another but made exceptions this past season for quarterback Joey Gatewood (Auburn to Kentucky), guard Cade Mays (Georgia to Tennessee) and safety Otise Reese (Georgia to Ole Miss). Gatewood and Mays were cleared after last season's opening weekend, while Reese wasn't eligible until late November.
The Louisville Courier-Journal asked SEC commissioner Greg Sankey about the rule in March in regard to Justin Powell, a former Auburn basketball player. Powell was considering Kentucky at that time but transferred to Tennessee.
"I don't, in the offseason, anticipate entertaining waivers," Sankey told the Courier-Journal. "In fact, we've communicated the intraconference rule still stands. Our membership has voted on that rule. It's been in place for decades."
Since those comments, however, the American Athletic Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Mid-American Conference have announced they are no longer requiring intraconference transfers to sit out a year.
Tennessee picked up a commitment Saturday from Brody Foley, a 6-6, 235-pound tight end from Cincinnati.
Foley is a three-star prospect and the No. 28 tight end nationally, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. He also holds SEC offers from Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky.
The Vols now have four commitments for the 2022 cycle, with Foley joining quarterback Tayven Jackson of Greenwood, Indiana, defensive end Venson Sneed of Winter Park, Florida, and outside linebacker Elijah Herring of Murfreesboro.