We’re approaching 70 days since Eric Gray, Henry To’o to’o Wanya Morris and Quavaris Crouch, four crown jewels of Tennessee football‘s 2019 signing class, entered the transfer portal. Gray and Morris have since joined the Oklahoma Sooners, but the status of To’o to’o and Crouch is still very much unknown.
Both were highly rated four-star prospects who chose the Vols over schools like the Clemson Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide. They are irreplaceable inside linebackers for UT. From 2019-20 To’o to’o amassed 148 total tackles under Jeremy Pruitt. Crouch totaled 85. If they do transfer, they’ll leave behind a fairly young but very inexperienced inside linebacker group.
However, it’s almost been 70 days since the two officially began flirting with the idea of leaving Knoxville, and despite heavy rumors converging on Rocky Top from all corners of the country, they are still uncommitted. If both players were so set on leaving Tennessee football, then why haven’t they? How can we properly assess this situation?
What we know
The two linebackers are currently taking courses with the University of Tennessee. While it’s believed that the classes are all online, we know that both players have been in Knoxville at various points since entering the transfer portal. Conversely, the pair hasn’t associated with the team since the coaching change. Neither player was listed on the team’s official spring roster.
We also know that the coaches and players believe there’s still a chance for both of them to return to Neyland Stadium wearing orange and white in the fall. If they do return, it’s pretty clear there won’t be any hard feelings.
What might be going on
Rumors of potential landing spots for the two highly regarded athletes have covered just about every power five conference in the country. Crouch was rumored to be trending towards the Michigan Wolverines, who were heavily involved in his high school recruitment.
Many recruiting experts believed To’o to’o would stay closer to home and play for the USC Trojans. However, another claimed it was a “done deal” the California native would join Nick Saban’s club in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
In short, those who can definitively say where the two former Vols will land probably aren’t sure either. We’ll find out their transfer destinations when they announce it themselves. Because of that, we’ll refrain from speculating on Josh Heupel’s chances of luring To’o to’o and Crouch back into Tennessee football’s locker room.
However, the official loss of To’o To’o and Crouch would be devastating to the Vols’ defense. Retaining even just one of the two would bolster a linebacker group that lacks established leadership, especially with J.J. Peterson entering the transfer portal and two linebackers suspended for spring practice.
As each day of practice passes with neither player on the roster, it feels like both of them may already be gone. Still, players like Alontae Taylor have hope, and the addition of those two names for a first-year SEC head coach would be massive.
It’s not off the table to assume the two players were NFL bound after three years anyway, so convincing them to stay in a familiar environment and play for one more season could help UT in this situation. Not every team has one player, let alone two, that could find a roster spot on seemingly any team in the country. That’s the unique situation UT finds itself in here.
If healthy, To’o To’o and Crouch would likely be on the field for the vast majority of the team’s defensive snaps in 2021. Heupel is tasked with the difficult responsibility of retaining two players that could single-handedly redefine his first defense as Tennessee football’s head coach.