Tennessee football: With Aaron Willis in portal, is Quavaris Crouch coming back?

Two things happened on Friday within 15 minutes of each other, and the combination could mean huge news for Tennessee football. First, Michigan State Spartans linebacker Quavaris Crouch entered the transfer portal. Then the Vols lost Aaron Willis to the transfer portal.

Crouch played for Rocky Top in 2019 and 2020 before transferring to MSU for 2021. Willis, meanwhile, was a four-star recruit across the board in the 2021 class but was buried in the depth chart behind Jeremy Banks, Aaron Beasley and Solon Page III this past year.

Does the timing of these events mean Crouch is returning to Tennessee football? Rainer Sabin of the Detroit Free Press reported on his transfer at 9:45 a.m. ET Friday. Willis revealed his decision to enter the portal at 9:57 a.m. ET Friday on Twitter.

Honestly, Willis’ entry into the portal doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Vols struggled severely at linebacker this past year, so even with everybody returning along with Juwan Mitchell getting healthy, he should have had a great chance to see more action.

Even if he didn’t, Banks, Page and Mitchell are all seniors. As a result, his transfer suggests that not only did certain other players surprisingly outperform expectations in the spring, but he knows the unit is about to get deeper.

Could Crouch be a part of that? If he transfers again, he would have to sit out 2022 but then would have two years of eligibility left. As a result, he could immediately step back into the rotation, and he started in Jeremy Pruitt’s system with the Vols in 2020 alongside Henry To’o To’o.

There is more evidence to suggest this may be the case. Back in early March, Banks posted an Instagram story of him with Crouch and a Vols bag at the airport. When you combine that with Crouch and Willis both entering the portal, it’s not crazy to think Tennessee football is getting Crouch back.

Of course, Banks being a senior and Crouch not being eligible until 2023 if he transfers may lead people to question that, but it’s worth noting Banks will still be eligible in 2023 as well. He was a freshman in 2018 and took a redshirt in 2019. The 2020 didn’t count against his eligibility.

Simply put, Banks, the Vols’ most productive linebacker last year, could potentially start with Crouch at the position in 2023. Given the production both have shown at different times, that would be an incredible duo.

Standing at 6’2″ 230 pounds, Crouch specifically had 75 total tackles last year, 37 of which were solo, along with two sacks, three pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In two years at UT, he had 85 tackles, 44 of which were solo, along with three tackles for a loss, half a sack, three pass deflections and a forced fumble.

As a starter in 2020, Crouch had 57 tackles, 31 of which were solo, two tackles for a loss, a pass deflection and a forced fumble. He also became notable in 2019 as the Vols’ short-yardage running back, rushing for two touchdowns, something they could have used last year.

Willis, meanwhile, standing at 6’1″ 225 pounds, had just one tackle for Tennessee football last year, assisting on a tackle for a loss. To be fair, he and Crouch both committed to play for Jeremy Pruitt and his 3-4 scheme, so it’s understandable why they would hit the portal. Everybody should wish the best for both of them no matter what.