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DONT'A HIGHTOWER Inside Linebacker Alabama Crimson Tide #30 6:04.0-258-4.74 Lewisburg, TN Marshall County High School
Like most of his teammates, Hightower didn't give a full workout at his March 7 Pro Day. But Alabama coach Nick Saban gave Hightower, who turned 22 on March 12, an early birthday present when he offered plenty of data for those who would listen. "Inside linebacker, nickel backer, defensive end and odd rusher," recited Saban. "He does all those things very well, he is very smart and he has leadership qualities."
As a freshman, Hightower was labeled "A freak who can play any position," by teammate Rolando McClain (No. 8 overall in 2010, Raiders). He played up to the hype until he blew out his left knee in 2009 and required reconstructive surgery on his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
It wasn't really until last season that he was playing back to top form, which is comparable to a larger and more athletic Brandon Spikes (New England, second-round pick out of Florida, 2010).
Hightower combines dutiful film work and great instinct to help get him quickly into position for plays, and then his substantial physical abilities take over. He is a natural leader and weight-room fanatic.
Read & React: Productive, combines good instincts and fair reaction time for his size. Finds the ball in the trash inside, doesn't take false steps against play-action and gets into his drop quickly and naturally. Missing the quick-twitch acceleration, and thus reaction speed, to project as an All-Pro type.
Run defense: Solid run-stuffer with good mobility. Stonewalls ballcarriers in the hole with the size and leverages one-on-one to churn legs and prevent forward push. Big-bodied with a defensive end's frame to drive linemen blocks inside with the thick arms to maintain distance and shed or scrape to the play. Flashes hustle to reach option toss outside even with delayed read. Aggressive defensive scheme gives him a lot of chances to make plays on run blitzes. Lacks speed to beat the ball outside without taking the perfect angle.
Pass defense: Top zone awareness kept him on the field in passing situations despite average speed. Drops to first-down marker quickly and watches for crossers in front of him. Very aware of RB routes with effort to attack throws to the sideline. Lacks speed and short-area quickness to handle NFL slot receivers and better tight ends in man coverage; can struggle to track and catch up with misdirection. Manhandles receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Tackling: Strong head-on tackler. Gets low and wraps ballcarriers of any size. Reacts quickly enough to shed blocks or grab the legs of backs through a hole. Good chase and closing to the sideline. Leaves his feet to grab elusive ballcarriers in space using his size and strength. Occasionally whiffs, is inconsistent breaking down to attack open-field targets and misses chances when he doesn't bend and get low in tight quarters.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Regular blitzer because of his size and strong hands. Does not have elite edge speed but started to beat tackles with quickness and violent hands consistently. Shows some situational DE potential. Strength to rock back tight ends and linemen with initial contact. Average changing direction but has the length and flexibility to bend around the tackle.
Intangibles: Heady player, often directed traffic. Worked hard to rehab from serious knee injury in 2009. Took the leadership handoff from Rolando McClain as a redshirt sophomore. Spends a lot of time in the weight and film room.
Hightower is a returning captain and a leader of the Crimson Tide's vaunted defense that ranks No. 1 nationally in all five major categories ... UA leads the country in scoring defense (8.8 ppg), first in total defense (191.3 ypg), first in rushing defense (74.9 ypg), first in pass efficiency defense (83.9 ypg) and first in pass defense (116.3 ypg) ... a consensus first-team All-American by the Associated Press, AFCA and Walter Camp as well as Rivals.com and Pro Football Weekly ... a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, the Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy ... a leading candidate for first-team All-America honors ... leads the team with a career-best 81 tackles, including 37 solo stops ... has three sacks (-16 yards) and 9.5 tackles for loss (-35 yards) ... also has eight quarterback hurries, one interception, one blocked field goal and three pass breakups ... started all 12 games at mike linebacker and 41 during his Crimson Tide career ... can also move to the outside on passing downs to rush the passer ... an eight-time UA coaching staff player of the week and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week following the Tennessee and Mississippi State games ... named the Lott IMPACT National Player of the Week for his performance against the Vols ... has at least five tackles in 11 of 12 games this season ... has 41 tackles in the last five games with 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Kent State: Second on the team in tackles with seven ... had four solo tackles and half of a sack for minus-four yards ... registered one quarterback hurry in the Tide's 48-7 win. Penn State: Had four tackles in the Tide's win over the No. 23 Nittany Lions ... was credited with an additional quarterback hurry in the coach's tape. North Texas: Had five tackles with three solo stops in the 41-0 shutout of the Mean Green ... had a season-best two tackles for loss (-6 yards) and one quarterback hurry as the Tide limited UNT to 169 total yards and just 68 yards rushing ... earned Defensive Player of the Week honors from the UA coaching staff. Arkansas: Registered a team-best nine tackles ... had two tackles for loss for the second straight game, dropping the Hogs behind the line of scrimmage for a total of eight yards ... helped hold the Razorbacks to just 17 yards rushing and 291 yards below their season average entering the game. Florida: Made five tackles with three solo stops as the Tide held the powerful Gator rushing attack to just 15 yards. Vanderbilt: For the second straight game made five tackles with two solo stops this time ... held Vandy to just 190 total yards, including just 41 on the ground.
Mississippi: Recorded five tackles and half of a tackle for loss (-1 yard) against the Rebels ... helped UA record 14 tackles for loss as a team ... had his third quarterback hurry of the season as the Tide held UM to 141 total yards and just 28 rushing yards. Tennessee: Selected as the Lott IMPACT National Player of the Week and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after his showing against the Volunteers ... had eight tackles with a sack ... also intercepted a UT pass and returned in 29 yards inside the Vols' 10-yard line ... recorded three quarterback hurries and broke up two passes as his defense helped limit his home-state Volunteers to just 155 total yards in a 37-6 win. LSU: Made seven tackles and recorded two quarterback hurries ... had four solo stops as the Tide limited the Tigers offense to just 239 yards of offense ... selected as the UA Defensive Player of the Week.
Mississippi State: Equaled his career high with 11 tackles while helping to limit the Bulldogs to 131 total yards and just 12 yards rushing ... had a career-best 2.5 tackles for loss (-10 yards) and a career-high 1.5 sacks (-9 yards) ... also broke up a pass and earned SEC and Alabama Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Georgia Southern: Blocked the first field goal of the year, which was returned for a touchdown ... made six tackles while starting his 40 career game. Auburn: Recorded nine tackles with one tackle for a loss of three yards ... had a season-high six solo stops ... helped limited the Tigers to just 140 total yards ... AU had just 44 yards --- 25 rushing -- through three quarters and gained the rest after the Tide had already locked up the win in the fourth quarter.
Hightower returned to the field in 2010 after a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas in 2009 ... earned second-team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press and SEC coaches ... finished second on the team with 69 tackles, including 30 solo stops ... had nine quarterback hurries and three pass breakups ... forced teams to be aware of his presence on every play ... started the first three games at mike linebacker before sliding back over to his original will spot in the last 10 games and saw his production skyrocket. San Jose State: Made his first career start at mike linebacker ... recorded three tackles with two solo stops ... made the first tackle of the game for the Tide. Penn State: Had just five tackles with four assisted stops but wreaked havoc on the Nittany Lion defense ... a first-half quarterback pressure resulted in a floater that Will Lowery intercepted inside the Tide's five-yard line ... also registered one pass breakup. Duke: Made a then-season-high eight tackles -- five solos -- in a 62-13 rout of the Blue Devils in Durham ... selected as a Defensive Player of the Week by the coaching staff. Arkansas: Started at will linebacker for the first time in 2010 ... made three solo tackles and one assist as the defense stiffened in the second half of the Tide's comeback win. Florida: Recorded six tackles -- three solos -- in the 31-6 win over the Gators ... provided consistent pressure on UF quarterback John Brantley with two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup ... led a defense that allowed 79 yards rushing and 283 total yards. South Carolina: Made five total tackles with two solo stops. Mississippi: Totaled five tackles with three solo stops ... affected the quarterback throughout the game and registered two quarterback hurries ... helped hold the Rebels to 243 yards of total offense and 133 yards passing. Tennessee: Finished with six tackles, including three solo stops ... added a season-high 1.5 tackles for loss (-3 yards) ... had two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup as the Tide limited the Volunteers to 156 yards passing. LSU: Recorded a team-high 10 tackles with two solo stops ... made one tackle for a loss of four yards ... added his eighth quarterback hurry of the season. Mississippi State: Made eight total tackles as the Crimson Tide limited the No. 17 Bulldogs to 299 total yards. Georgia State: Played just under a half against the Panthers in a 63-7 win ... made three tackles as the Tide limited GSU 165 total yards and 91 rushing. Auburn: Made four total tackles with three solo stops in the Iron Bowl ... logged one tackle for loss on Tigers' quarterback Cam Newton ... helped limit AU's offense to 324 total yards and 200 yards below its rushing average. Michigan State: Registered two tackles in the Crimson Tide 49-7 win over the Spartans in the Capital One Bowl ... helped Alabama limit MSU to 171 total yards, including -48 rushing, the second-lowest rushing yield in school history.
He started the first four games at will linebacker before a torn ACL in left knee against Arkansas ended his season ... took a helmet to the knee on a cut block ... before his injury he also spent time at the jack linebacker in many passing situations ... made 16 tackles, four tackles for loss (-7) and one sack (-4). Virginia Tech: Made six tackles with two solo stops ... notched a tackle for loss (-1) and broke up one Tyrod Taylor pass. FIU : Had three solo tackles and six total stops, while registering his first sack of the season (-4) and 2.5 total tackles for loss ... also had two quarterback hurries. North Texas: Started and made two assisted tackles in limited action in a 53-7 win over UNT. Arkansas: Made two assisted tackles in the first half before an injured knee ended his season.
Hightower was one of two true freshmen to be regular starter for the Crimson Tide in 2008 ... the freshman started 12 games while playing in all 14 ... a Freshman All-American by the FWAA at linebacker ... second-team Freshman All-American by Sporting News ... also a midseason Freshman All-America selection by Rivals.com ... a Freshman All-SEC selection by league coaches ... finished with 64 tackles - 26 solos - to rank fourth on the team ... also had one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries ... had at least one tackle in each game and had five or more stops in seven of 14 games, including 10 against Tulane and a career-high 11 at LSU ... recorded six quarterback hurries. Clemson: Hightower started at will linebacker and made one solo tackle ... also recovered a fumble on his first series at linebacker. Tulane: He notched the first double-digit tackle game of his young career with 10 total stops and five solo tackles against the Green Wave ... also forced a Tulane fumble. Western Kentucky: Hightower's playing time was reduced as the Crimson Tide spent much of the game in nickel and dime defensive packages ... made one tackle against the Hilltoppers. Arkansas: He notched five total tackles with two solo stops in the Tide's 49-14 win over the Razorbacks.
Georgia: Hightower made two assisted tackles against the No. 3 Bulldogs ... also picked up an A.J. Green fumble out of midair and returned it eight yards to setup a second quarter Crimson Tide touchdown ... helped the Tide defense hold Georgia to just 50 yards rushing. Kentucky: He registered five tackles with two solo stops as Alabama surrendered just 35 yards rushing on 20 attempts ... Hightower also had one quarterback hurry that forced one of 22 incompletions from Wildcats' quarterback Mike Hartline. Mississippi: Hightower was second on the team with six tackles as the Tide posted a 24-20 win over the Rebels. Tennessee: He led the team with seven tackles, including three solo stops ... had one tackle for loss (-4) ... helped the Crimson Tide hold the Volunteers to just 36 yards rushing, the fifth team this season to have 50 or less rushing yards. Arkansas State: Hightower logged five total tackles with three solo stops in a 35-0 shutout of the Red Wolves ... helped limit ASU to just 158 yards of total offense. LSU: He recorded a career-best 11 tackles, including two solo stops ... also made a career-best 1.5 TFL (-2) ... his 11 tackles were the most for either team.
Mississippi State: Hightower made two tackles with one solo stop in the Crimson Tide's 32-7 win over Mississippi State ... he helped the Tide defense limit the Bulldogs to just 35 yards rushing and 167 total yards. Auburn: He notched four assisted tackles against the Tigers ... aided the Tide defense in holding Auburn to just 57 rushing yards, including just eight yards on the ground in the second half. Florida: Hightower made three solo tackles against the No. 2 Gators ... helped limit UF to almost 100 yards below their season average for total yards ... had one of three quarterback hurries on UF signal-caller Tim Tebow. Sugar Bowl vs. Utah: He did not start as the Crimson Tide opened in a dime defense ... registered two solo tackles and logged one quarterback hurry ... saw action at both weak-side linebacker and jack linebacker.
He was named the state's defensive MVP by The Tennessean ... listed on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Super Southern 100 ... earned a four-star rating from Rivals.com and Scout.com ... was Class 3A Mr. Football in Tennessee and voted first-team Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State ... the No. 2 player in the state of Tennessee according to SuperPrep Magazine ... member of The Tennessean's Dream Team ... selected to play in the U.S. Army East-West All-Star game in San Antonio ... the state of Tennessee's No. 3 overall player according to Rivals.com ... Rivals.com's No. 15 inside linebacker in the country ... listed as the No. 39 player overall in The Mobile Press-Register's Super Southeast 120 ... No. 95 player on the Scout.com Southeast 150 list ... recorded 168 tackles (14 for loss), five forced fumbles, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries as a senior ... also had 875 yards and 19 touchdowns on offense.
Draft Scout Player News
11/08/17 - LB Dont'a Hightower (pectoral) was finally placed on injured reserve Nov. 7, two weeks after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair the torn muscle suffered in the Oct 22 win over the Falcons.
11/06/17 - LB Dont'a Hightower (pectoral) curiously remains on the 53-man roster despite undergoing surgery to repair the torn muscle, a procedure expected to sideline the Pro Bowler until 2018.
10/30/17 - LB Dont'a Hightower (pectoral) missed his third game of the season after undergoing surgery midweek to repair the torn muscle. Though he currently remains on the active roster, the Pro-Bowl captain is expected to miss the rest of the season.
10/26/17 - LB Dont'a Hightower will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, an injury that was suffered in the third quarter of last Sunday's win over the Atlanta Falcons. The Pro Bowler reportedly had surgery on Thursday to repair the injury and is expected to make a full recovery for 2018.
This is a huge loss for a New England defense that's struggled early in 2017. One player called Hightower the team's best defender while lamenting the loss and others used the word "special" to describe the linebacker both as a playmaker and a leader in the locker room as a team captain.
"He knows the defense like the back of his hand. To lose a guy like that is a huge blow for the team," linebacker David Harris said. "But as a linebacker group, we have to step up and try to fill his place, which is going to be tough to do.
"It's a huge loss."
10/25/17 - LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) did not practice after failing to finish the third quarter against Atlanta. Though he remained on the sideline, the Pro Bowler did not return to the field.
Hightower has a history of shoulder and knee issues, missing time earlier this season due to a knee injury.
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