Hightower Faces Arkansas Again

This week, there's no avoiding discussion of the injury of last year, but the victim has his focus on this year and this game of top ten opponents.

Last year, Alabama defeated Arkansas 35-7 in Tuscaloosa, but within the win the Crimson Tide suffered a huge loss when inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Following the game, Bama Coach Nick Saban said his team had lost one of its best players.

On Saturday, Alabama, ranked number one in the nation, goes to Fayetteville to meet 10th ranked Arkansas. CBS will televise the key Southeastern Conference game with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CDT.

Hightower said this year's game "means a lot, especially with the injury last year."

But Hightower said the greater importance is that it's Bama's first conference game of the year, that it's an away game, and that it's an important national game.

Even though he said "they took me out for the season," Hightower is quick to add he is not bitter. "It wasn't really a dirty block," he said of the cut block that resulted in the injury. "I didn't play it was well as I should have."

He said he had emphasized correct technique in playing off blocks since his return to practice last spring. "Obviously, I don't want to get hurt again," he said. "I'm playing lower, playing a little bit faster, playing more with technique than just athleticism."

Technique is about more than avoiding injury. "You can't really be a good football team without good fundamentals," Hightower said. (Relying on) pure athleticism can get you beat."

He said that he believes Alabama tackling has improved since the beginning of the season.

Another emphasis this week has been on conditioning. Last week Duke had limited success against the Tide defense in Bama's 62-13 win, but did move the ball with a hurry-up offense. Alabama players expect that from Arkansas this week.

As Hightower spoke to reporters following Tuesday's practice, he said, "Marcell Dareus and a couple of other (defensive) linemen are downstairs on the treadmill right now. Everybody's anticipating that Arkansas might try to hot-tempo us. We're all working on that and try to be one step ahead."

Thus far, the Arkansas offense has been mostly a passing offense. Hightower said that Razorbacks quarterback "Ryan Mallett is a great QB. He has a great arm, he has weapons around him. We have to try to get in and rattle him around a little, make him uncomfortable."

The Mallett challenge is also an opportunity.

"I've yet to get a sack this year," Hightower said. "I'm itching for one, and this would be the perfect game to get one, against a great quarterback and a team that wants to air the ball out. Hopefully, I'll be able to get my hand in the dirt Saturday and get after Mallett."

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