Published March 4, 2011 - 5:41am
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Saturday Down South is continually counting down the top 20 players in the SEC for 2011 – pre-season style!
Dont’a Hightower – No. 15
It has to be imposing for an offensive player, particularly a quarterback or running back, to look into the middle of the second level of defense for Alabama and see a chiseled 6-4, 260lb Dont’a Hightower waiting to hit you like a Mack Truck. Hightower will be the anchor of a very talent-filled defensive team and linebacking corps next year for Alabama. The Crimson Tide stole him out of high school from Lewisburg, Tennessee, and neither have looked back since. Hightower has started for Alabama ever since his freshman season, when he has been healthy of course.
Hightower tore his ACL in 2009 after starting the first four games of the season, but he came back strong in 2010 and did not miss a beat for the Tide.
Hightower is very agile and can sift through all the garbage on defense to get to the ball carrier. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone better doing it lately.
This past season, Hightower was second on the team in tackles, trailing only Mark Barron, with 69 total tackles, and 3.5 of them for were tackles for loss. If you can believe it, Alabama did not have a tackler in the top 15 in the conference this past season. Hightower finished 29th in the conference in tackles.
Preston Dial, former Alabama tight end, was once asked who the hardest hitter was on the Alabama roster. His response was not surprising. “Dont’a Hightower. He’s so explosive. … I’ve definitely got to give the crown to him, and to be honest, I’d have given it to him last year with Rolando (McClain) here, too. I had the opportunity to get him last year. I dumped him off one time. The next play, he came back and pretty much picked me up and slammed me on my head.”
Redshirt junior Hightower is primed for a stellar season in 2011. After three years in Nick Saban’s defense, he knows exactly what to expect and how to command this defense to run like a machine. I fully expect Hightower to emerge as a big-time NFL target after next season. It’s a good thing he returned for his junior year, and I think it will prove to be huge for him. One more good, healthy year, and he will be ready for the big stage.