Hightower Ready To Get Back At It

When Alabama takes the field against San Jose State to kick off the 2010, season, it's a given that one of the eleven men on defense will be Dont'a Hightower. But where will this man Tide Coach Nick Saban calls a "good leader" be? Middle linebacker? Maybe. Pass rushing outside man? Perhaps. Both? Likely.

Suffice it to say, that, per Alabama Coach Nick Saban, Dont'a Hightower's role will be quite different than that of last year's defensive leader, current Oakland Raider Rolando McClain.

Saban said as much at today's SEC Media Days gathering: "Both are very good players, but two very different players. Ro was a signal caller and a leader. Dont'a is more a pass-rusher. He can move around and play multiple roles and positions. Rolando played Mike linebacker all the time. Before Dont'a got hurt last year, we were moving him around. We want to do that with him this year, too. Hopefully, Dont'a won't have to be the primary signal-caller this year, so we can (move him around.)."

Hightower, back from an ACL injury, is ready to play some football, regardless of what his role may be against which opponent, or on what down/distance.

Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram knows first-hand that Hightower can bring the wood.

"Dont'a is a beast," Ingram said. "He's a man out there. Big,strong, fast. Smart. Great leader. He's sideline- to- sideline."

Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant once described Lee Roy Jordan the same way.

After recovering from last season's knee injury and surgery, Hightower finished second only to Ingram in votes for this year's preseason All-SEC team as predicted by the media.

The stats bear Ingram's description of Hightower out. In the 18 games he's been healthy, the 6-4, 260-pounder from Lewisburg, Tenn., has made 80 tackles, 6.5 of those for a loss, and been credited with one sack. That last stat is almost certain to go up this year.

"I think my role will be to play inside on first and second down, then on third down become an edge rusher," said Hightower, clad in a crimson suit that would make Don Johnson proud. "I was talking to my mom, and she wanted me to wear one of my suits (to Media Days)," he explained. "I only have two suits: one crimson, and one hounds-tooth. She wanted me to wear the crimson."

That being, of course, the color Hightower will wear on the field this fall.

Invariably, Hightower was asked about the predicament his friend Marcell Dareus is going through. "I haven't talked to him about it yet, but if I did, my advice to Marcell would be to make better decisions," said Hightower, who along with Dareus is considered leader of the 2010 Tide defense.

As could be expected, Hightower said having to miss the final ten games of last year's national championship season only made him hungrier for this year.

"I learned a lot," he said. "I understand the game better now. I got a chance to sit in with coach (Kirby) Smart while he broke down film. I feel I have a better understanding of the game, now. I learned the backbone of our defense. It made me more humble. Sitting on the sidelines, I learned things I never would have learned."

That new knowledge could be bad news for Tide opponents this fall.

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