To’o To’o Brings the Best Out of Christian Harris
Rightfully so, Tennessee transfer linebacker Henry To'o To'o has brought some serious buzz to the Alabama Crimson Tide defense. After all, he was a top recruit for Alabama in 2019 and played in Jeremy Pruitt's defense in Knoxville, a defense that operates quite similarly to Nick Saban's in Tuscaloosa.
But he isn't alone in stardom at the linebacker position for the Crimson Tide. Christian Harris is entering his third consecutive season as a full-time starter at linebacker and with the addition of To'o To'o, Harris is primed to play his position comfortably.
“I think what Henry’s done is let Christian play his more natural position, which is Will and Money," head coach Nick Saban said Wednesday after practice. "He can play Mike, and he’s a very good Mike. But Henry’s a signal-caller, he’s been a signal-caller."
It's a unique luxury to have a transfer step into such a vital role as To'o To'o has. His leadership abilities have been mentioned several times, but impacting another elite player like Harris is one more aspect that allows Alabama to take on the 2021 season with an experienced and talented defense.
"Having experience at doing that is very helpful," Saban said. "It’s less of a burden on other players on the team. I think it helps everybody on the team when you have communication, especially at the linebacker position. It’s a little bit like the quarterback on offense."
In both of Christian Harris's seasons, he's had to manage both roles. When Joshua McMillan and Dylan Moses both fell to season-ending injuries, Harris was paired with Shane Lee in his freshman season. Both were true freshmen and shared multiple responsibilities. In year two, Harris was able to play Will alongside Dylan Moses as the Mike linebacker.
Harris has shown growth in both seasons statistically, totaling 61 tackles in 2019 and 79 in 2020. As a high school defensive back and wide receiver in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Harris is in line with the modern athletic linebacker, which makes him more suited to defend the fast, pass-happy offenses of today's college football.
"But I think the combination of those two guys, both being able to do it, is very, very helpful, especially when it comes to making adjustments and fitting runs and being in the right spot in coverage,” Saban said.
The duo will have to put their track shoes on in the coming weeks as the Miami Hurricanes bring a ton of speed with them to Atlanta on September 4 in the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff game.
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