The Alabama Crimson Tide has been a factory for NFL players for a long time now. Nick Saban has built an elite recruiting machine and filled his program with great coaches to get the most out of excellent prospects.
It isn’t a surprise that Alabama consistently produces some of the best NFL prospects at just about every position.
Linebacker Henry To’oTo’o transferred from Tennessee to Alabama prior to the 2021 season to be coached by Saban and take his game to the next level. He doesn’t quite fit the traditional archetype of linebacker produced by Alabama at 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, but he’s well-suited to play in the modern game.
The New York Giants have needed to add young and athletic linebackers to their defense for a long time now. Could Brian Daboll’s own connection to Alabama put To’oTo’o on the Giants’ radar?
Prospect: Henry To’oTo’o
Games Watched: vs. Texas (2022), vs. Arkansas (2022), vs. Tennessee (2022), vs. LSU (2022)
Games Played: 28
Tackles for a loss: 15.5
Forced fumbles: 1
Passes defensed: 1
(Note: Career stats are only at Alabama)
Games Played: 13
Tackles for a loss: 8.0
Forced fumbles: 0
Passes defensed: 0
Best: Experience, football IQ, athleticism, range, competitive toughness
Worst: Size, block shedding
Projection: A nickel or WILL linebacker with starting upside.
(To’oTo’o is Alabama linebacker number 10)
Alabama’s Henry To’oTo’o (pronounced “TOE-ohTOE-oh”) is an undersized but experienced, athletic, and competitive linebacker prospect.
To’oTo’o began his career at the University of Tennesse, where he started 22 of 23 games, before transferring to Alabama prior to the 2021 season and starting the next 28 games. He is a very smart quarterback who’s an active communicator before and after the snap. To’oTo’o shows good football IQ and assignment discipline throughout his game, and helps to get his teammates lined up as well. He typically diagnoses the play well, and generally does so quickly. He tends to commit hard and fast to his reads and flies to the ball once he’s committed.
To’oTo’o is an athletic and rangy linebacker who is able to close down on ball carriers or fill running lanes from fairly deep at the second level, as well as pursue across the field. He’s an assignment-sound run defender and never seems to freelance and compromise the integrity of the defense. To’oTo’o’s 32 ¾ inch arms are relatively long for his 6-foot-1 inch frame, and he understands how to use his arms and athleticism to keep himself clean around the line of scrimmage. He’s a surprisingly slippery linebacker who is able to navigate the traffic around the line of scrimmage without allowing himself to be tied up by blockers. He routinely takes good, smart angles to the ball, either maximizing his play speed or allowing himself to intercept runners and minimize gains on breakaway runs.
To’oTo’o’s agility allows him to quickly square up with ball carriers in space and wrap up to get them safely on the ground. He also knows how to uncoil his hips and transfer his speed into solid hits when tackling.
His athleticism allows him to be very comfortable when playing in space. To’oTo’o quickly gets good depth in his zone coverage drops and does a good job of keeping his eyes in the backfield when doing so. He has a quick downfield trigger on plays underneath him, and also shows surprisingly fluid hips with good change of direction skills. That allows him to be an effective coverage linebacker, though he might not be able to run with more athletic running backs and receivers at the NFL level.
To’oTo’o was a frequent blizter in Alabama’s defense, and executed his role relatively well. He has good speed into the backfield and knows how to keep blockers from latching on and disrupting his rushes.
That said, To’oTo’o does need to rush with more urgency and aggression into the backfield, as well as work on developing his repertoire as a pass rusher. His rushes can quickly stall if an offensive lineman is able to engage with him.
Likewise, To’oTo’o can struggle to disengage as a run defender if an offensive lineman is able to lock in his block. He simply lacks the mass to consistently stack and shed blocks from linemen once they’re properly engaged. To’oTo’o can also struggle to get stronger runners on the ground if he’s unable to square up and deliver a good form tackle.
Finally, while To’oTo’o is a very smart linebacker, he doesn’t seem to be a terribly instinctive one. He can bite too hard on misdirection and be pulled out of position in run defense and as a coverage player. He can also be too trusting of his eyes in the backfield and be pulled out of position by quarterbacks with good eye discipline.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Henry To’oTo’o projects as an off-ball nickel linebacker with the potential to start as a WILL in the right scheme.
To’oTo’o will likely need to change positions from the MLB role he played at Alabama. He’s good at keeping himself clean when he has space with which to work, but he’ll still have to deal with offensive linemen too often as an inside linebacker. Instead, To’oTo’o is at his best when he is able to use his athleticism to his advantage. He’s comfortable playing in space and is an effective blizter, which should make him a useful piece in obvious passing situations or against pass-happy offenses.
To’oTo’o will need to work on playing faster at the NFL level and not allowing deceptive offenses to pull him out of position. However, he should pick up NFL coaching quickly.
It shouldn’t take long for To’oTo’o to find his way onto the field for a defense, even if it’s as a rotational role player. He is a very smart and very experienced linebacker who’s already seen a lot as he comes into the NFL. Not only does the sheer number of games started by To’oTo’o speak to his experience, the fact that he immediately won a starting job as a middle linebacker in Nick Saban’s defense speaks to his football IQ.