Josh Heupel would welcome Henry To'o To'o, Quavaris Crouch back to Tennessee football
“We will welcome anybody back that wants to be part of (the program)," Heupel said. "At the same time, it is about the guys that are inside the room always and forever.”
To'o To'o and Crouch were not on the Tennessee roster released Thursday prior to UT's first spring practice. To'o To'o and Crouch entered the NCAA transfer portal on Jan. 20, two days after Jeremy Pruitt was fired for cause amid an investigation that revealed sweeping recruiting violations within the football program.
Neither To'o To'o nor Crouch has announced a transfer destination.
Heupel, who was hired on Jan. 27, stated he will focus on the players inside of the building and locker room.
"It is never about who is not here," Heupel said. "I don’t care if it is in recruiting or guys that end up leaving the program. It is about guys that are here. We have a group of individuals that wanted accountability and wanted connection and wanted to become a football team. We are on a long journey. This is a journey, right? We are on that long journey right now. Our guys are competing and trying extremely hard to meet the expectations. They love one another. We are starting to be connected as a football team. That gives us a chance to move forward."
To’o To’o was a two-year starter who compiled 148 tackles in two seasons. Crouch joined To’o To’o in the starting lineup in 2020 after they helped highlight the 2019 signing class as four-star recruits.
Crouch was a two-way player in high school who starred as a running back. He played outside linebacker as a freshman, while doubling as a short-yardage running back in 2019. He moved inside to play alongside To'o To'o in 2020. He made 85 tackles in two seasons.
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks said on March 8 that Tennessee does not have a timeline for To'o To'o and Crouch to make a decision regarding their futures.
“They’re not here, obviously, at this point," Banks said. "We’re super excited about the guys that are here in this program that are working. We’ll figure that out as we go, but right now, we’re just concerned with the guys that are here.”
Alabama is a top contender for To'o To'o, according to comments made by his father, Iese, to BamaOnLine, a 247Sports affiliate. The elder To'o To'o indicated his son is “heavily leaning towards Alabama."
“One thing that we talked about was that we chose Tennessee the first time when we should have came to Alabama, so let’s not make this mistake twice,” Iese To’o To’o told BamaOnLine.
To’o To’o signed with Tennessee in February 2019 as a four-star recruit out of De La Salle High School in California, picking the Vols over Alabama and Washington.
Former Vols assistant coach Brian Niedermeyer was the primary recruiter for To'o To'o and Crouch.
Niedermeyer, along with Pruitt and assistant coach Shelton Felton, was fired for cause on Jan. 18 amid a university investigation into allegations of recruiting malfeasance. University officials have said the investigation uncovered evidence of several major NCAA rules violations.
News Sentinel reporter Blake Toppmeyer contributed to this report.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.