After a long and arduous recruiting process, Henry To'oto'o
had at last made up his mind. The 4-star linebacker, ranked the No. 44 recruit overall in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports from De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
, was sure that Alabama was his sweet home destination.
But on Jan. 16, Tosh Lupoi, a former De La Salle standout and Alabama's defensive coordinator, left the Crimson Tide to take a job with the Cleveland Browns as a defensive line coach.
"Tosh was everything to me," To'oto'o told Darren Sabedra of the San Jose Mercury News
. "He was a De La Salle brother, basically. Me going there under his wings, him being defensive coordinator, would have been perfect."
On Wednesday, To'oto'o announced before a standing room only crowd at the De La Salle gym that he would sign at Tennessee. He was the second Top 100 uncommitted recruit to sign on to the Vols on Wednesday, joining No. 10 recruit Darnell Wright
, a 6-6, 320-pound tackle from Huntington (W. Va.)
"It felt like my home away from home there," To'oto'o said of Tennessee.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior wanted to play in the SEC, and besides that, another De La Salle alum, fellow linebacker and Tennessee graduate Kevin Simon, is a Tennessee assistant in charge of player development.
"Kevin had a major impact on his decision," De La Salle coach Justin Alumbaugh said.
As usual, on National Signing Day 2019, personal connections were the deciding factor in a top recruit's choice. This one was one of the 10 biggest storylines of a relatively quiet day.
Here are nine other top storylines.
2. Five more Top 100s
To'oto'o and Wright were two of only seven from 247Sports' Top 100 recruits who had not either signed or committed by Wednesday. A remarkable 86 had already signed during the early signing period, Dec. 19-21.
The other uncommitted players who signed on Wednesday:
• No. 29 Jerrion Ealy
of Jackson Prep (Jackson, Miss.)
to Ole Miss
• No. 47 Ishmael Sopsher
of Amite (La.)
• No. 48 Kaiir Elam
of Benjamin (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)
• No. 69 Charles Moore
of Louisville (Miss.)
• No. 90 Mark-Antony Richards
of Wellington (Fla.)
to Auburn3. Hold Tide
With the signature of Sopsher, a 6-4, 334-pound defensive tackle, Alabama secured its eighth top team rankings in nine years, according to evaluations made by 247Sports. With a whopping 23 4-star recruits — no one else had more than 17 — Alabama finished with 317.50 points to hold off Georgia (308.98), Texas (287.02), Texas A&M (285.46) and LSU (284.06) in the top five race. 4. Georgia flip
Georgia led the country with five 5-star signings, which included the flip of wide receiver of George Pickens
of Hoover (Ala.)
. The 6-4, 190-pound senior — the nation's No. 24 recruit overall — had originally committed to Auburn. With so many signed players already, there were very few flips, but this one sent shock waves around both fan bases.
"I just felt like it was the right place for me, plus coaching wise knowing that Kirby Smart is always going to be up for a national championship," Pickens told 247Sports. "Georgia has always been the No. 2 school behind Auburn. It wasn't an easy decision. (It was) probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life."
5. More Georgia love
The Bulldogs also scored tight end Brett Seither
, a 3-star tight end from Clearwater Central Catholic (Clearwater, Fla.)
, who seemed destined for Alabama. According to 247Sports recruiting expert Steve Wiltfong
, tight end was a major need for Georgia. 6. Ole Miss coup
Most had 5-star running back Ealy, a 5-10, 190-pounder with blazing speed, destined for either national champion Clemson or runner-up Alabama, but instead picked Ole Miss. That helped the Rebels into the No. 22 spot in team rankings. They signed the most 3-star players in the country with 23. Ealy was their only 5-star player. 7. Seminole jump
The biggest jump from any of the top 20 team rankings was Florida State, from No. 23 to No. 16 thanks largely to the signings of 10 4-star standouts, led by cornerback Akeem Dent
of Palm Beach Central (Wellington, Fla.)
, the nation's No. 50 recruit overall. 8. More flipping
Besides securing Elam, Florida got a big surprise when 4-star defensive end Khris Bogle
of Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
, flipped from Alabama to the Gators. Bogle is ranked the No. 71 recruit in the country. He helped the Gators jump to ninth in the recruiting rankings. 9. National champs jump to 10th
Clemson moved up three spots to No. 10 thanks in part to the signage of 5-star cornerback Andrew Booth
of Archer (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
, the same state that produced star freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence
of Cartersville (Cartersville, Ga.)
, who led the Tigers to a national championship. 10. Interception
Dual-threat quarterback Lance LeGendre
of Easton (New Orleans, La.)
seemed to be leaning toward Florida State, but at the last moment, signed to Maryland. That was a big surprise considering FSU is No. 16 in the recruiting rankings and Maryland 59th.