TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On top of a highly-ranked recruiting class, Alabama football also received two welcome additions via the transfer portal in the 2021 offseason. Both players, LB Henry To'oTo'o and WR Jameson Williams, came from teams that Alabama played in 2020, Tennessee and Ohio State repsectively.
The new transfer rules have certainly made it easier than ever for NCAA athletes across all sports to find new schools and play right away, but why did To'oTo'o specifically choose Alabama when he could have gone anywhere in the country?
"Definitely Coach Saban," To'oTo'o said. "You know, who doesn't want to play for Coach Saban? And the culture, the guys around here, how they are so eager to win. It’s just a blessing for me to be here."
The junior linebacker said it took a lot of prayer and discussion with his family in deciding where he would end up, but his familiarity with the Alabama defense because of Jeremy Pruitt being his coach at Tennessee also helped in his decision.
Pruitt was on Saban's staff at Alabama from 2007-2012 and after brief stints at Florida State and Georgia, he returned to the Alabama staff in 2016 to serve as defensive coordinator.
"I give a lot of props to Coach Pruitt - taught me a lot of the game, taught me a lot of the system, similar system, similar defense," To'oTo'o said. "Being able to learn it from him and then come here and apply the teachings that he taught me and kind of take it on from there with Coach Saban and Coach Golding really helped me in my transition here."
Another big factor was the relationship he had built with Saban and the Alabama program coming out of high school. To'oTo'o said Alabama was in his top three as a recruit, and in the transfer portal process he was able to pick up where he left off in high school with the Alabama coaches. Williams had similar reasoning.
The former Ohio State wide receiver said Alabama was his second choice behind the Buckeyes coming out of high school.
"Things didn’t work out well with me, so I ended up in the transfer portal and you see what happened: I just ended up at Alabama playing for coach Saban," Williams said. "At the end of the day, they say ‘Good things always come back.’”
Even though he played against the Crimson Tide in the national championship game back in January, Williams said he wasn't thinking about transferring to Tuscaloosa at that time.
Both players received high praise from coaches and teammates alike through fall camp and have already made an impact on the field. Williams was the leading receiver in Saturday's win over Miami with 124 yards on four catches which included his 94-yard touchdown. To'oTo'o was second on the team with seven tackles against the Hurricanes.
To'oTo'o played in Tuscaloosa as a Tennessee player, but Williams will make his Bryant-Denny debut when the Crimson Tide hosts Mercer on Saturday.