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What Henry To'oTo'o is Looking for in a Partner at Inside Linebacker

Following the departure of Christian Harris, Alabama will need to fill the other half of its linebacking tandem.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It generally takes two to tango in the middle of Alabama’s defense. This spring, Henry To’oTo’o is looking for a new dance partner.

To’oTo’o started all 15 games at Mike linebacker last season, leading the team with 112 tackles. The bulk of that production came while lining up beside Christian Harris, who occupied the Will linebacker role. Following Harris’ decision to leave for the NFL this offseason, the Crimson Tide now has an opening for the other half of its inside tandem.

First up on the list of qualifications is the ability to build a partnership with To’oTo’o.

“As a linebacker, we call it moving on a string,” To’oTo’o said. “ You do something, I do something, so we’re gonna move together. Being able to have that relationship not only on the field but off the field — getting to know the guy, whoever is next to me — and being able to play as fast as we both can, is kind of what we’re looking for so it’s kind of huge.”

Alabama has plenty of potential suitors vying for the starting spot alongside To’oTo’o.

After placing his name in the NCAA transfer portal shortly after the season, Jaylen Moody elected to return to the Crimson Tide for his final year of eligibility. Interestingly enough, the graduate student was on track to take on a starting role next to Harris last offseason before being bumped from the role following To’oTo’o’s transfer from Tennessee. However, there aren’t any hard feelings as To’oTo’o said he’s been close with Moody since making his move to Tuscaloosa.

“He was one of the other guys that brought me in as a brother,” To’oTo’o said. “Me and Moody [are] close. We’ve been working a lot with each other during this offseason, especially during the spring.

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“Being able to talk to each other, ask each other what we see, what he sees. Not only me and him, but the whole entire linebacker group. We do a great job of sitting down together, figuring stuff out, trying to figure out a way to be the best we can, and be the best linebacker corps in the country.”

As To’oTo’o indicated, Moody is not Alabama’s only option moving forward. Deontae Lawson is also viewed as a strong contender for the role. While the redshirt freshman recorded just 11 defensive snaps during his debut season, he flashed his potential in last year’s A-Day game, recording four tackles, including one for a loss, with two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

There’s also 6-foot-2, 233-pound sophomore Kendrick Blackshire, who displayed his big-hit ability on special teams a few times last season. Jihaad Campbell, who ranked No. 26 in this year’s SI99, has created a lot of buzz as well since joining the team as an early enrolee.

“We have a lot of young guys in the room,” To’oTo’o said. “They do a great job but they’re understanding the defense. That’s one thing about here, is understand what your job is, what you’re supposed to do, how it’s supposed to be done and then now doing it to the best of your ability.

“Our young guys are doing a great job of that, especially in our room but across the defense as a board. I think they’re honing in, taking the council we’re giving them as older guys. I think they’re doing a really, really good job.”

This week should provide some indication of where Alabama stands at the inside linebacker position. The Crimson Tide will return to practice on Tuesday before holding another workout Thursday. Then comes the first scrimmage on Saturday inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

That will serve as the first dance with To’oTo’o as candidates look to prove they can keep time with the senior this spring. 

Jaylen Moody, Alabama spring practice, March 19, 2021
Deontae Lawson, Alabama practice, April 5, 2021
Kendrick Blackshire