Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel introduced his defensive staff on Monday afternoon. One of the interesting questions to come out of today was the whereabouts of the linebacker duo of Henry To’oto’o and Quavaris Crouch.
The two linebackers who started last season for the Vols are in the transfer portal currently and it sounds like that’s where they might stay for the time being. To’oto’o has been taking classes virtually over the past few months, while Crouch has actually been on campus. When Heupel first took the job at Tennessee, Crouch was part of the workouts leading up to spring practice, but this no longer seems to be the case.
“We don’t have a timeline on those guys,” new Vols defensive coordinator Tim Banks said during his introductory press conference on Monday. “They are not here obviously, at this point, so we’re super excited about the guys that are here in the program that are working.”
It’s not lost on the staff what having the duo could mean for the defensive unit, but they can no longer worry about if a player is going to show up or not. The task at hand for the coaches is to teach the players that are in Knoxville and build them into leaders. Today’s press conference wasn’t going to turn into a recruiting pitch for Crouch and To’o To’o, nor should it.
Either you’re in or you’re out at this point in time.
We’re just over two weeks away from Tennessee taking the field for Spring practice and if those two wanted to be part of this team, then they’d still be here. There’s no sense in begging them to return, it’s about finding the right players to fill their shoes.
“I’ve had conversations with them,” new Vols inside linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary said. “But with them being in the portal, I am just focusing on the guys that are here. Obviously those two are great players and we will see what happens with them in the future, but right now I am focusing on the guys that are with us”.
So, either way you slice it, the new staff has somewhat moved on with the group they have in front of them. If Crouch were to return, then that would be great for the unit. If not, then the spoke on the wheel will keep turning and the Vols defense will find someone to fill that gap. As for To’o To’o, he’s barely been around the program since Jeremy Pruitt was fired, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, as analysts have put out numerous projections for him.
This Tennessee defense will possibly have to replace two key contributors on that side of the football. With that said, in the new coaching staff’s mind, they’re only worried about the players that want to be there, which should make for healthy competition in a few weeks.