Rookie LB Ready for High Octane Year

Repellant 40-yard times in pre-draft workouts, kept linebacker Ali Highsmith at bay from his original second-round projections. Thus, the Arizona Cardinals found themselves in the familiar position of getting a LSU star for a bargain price. With rookie workouts well underway, it's undrafted Highsmith's time to prove he's the diamond that should have never been in the rough.

It could be argued that Ali Highsmith has been riding on the coattails of his alma mater's success. Sure, teams noticed him because of the talent packed LSU roster he played on, but it's the scouts who turned their attention from the Glenn Dorsey and Early Doucet's of the group to watch an impressive athlete who plays with his heart and his smarts.

"My greatest strengths are my quickness, my strength and my ability to read plays," Highsmith said.

Highsmith knows there are areas of his game that needs improvement. He needs to step it up physically and get off blocks quicker. If he can showcase his explosion, his ability to reroute receivers and his competitive drive, Highsmith has a shot at slipping into a depth position at weak-side linebacker behind Karlos Dansby and Matt Stewart.

LSU linebackers coach Bill Davis agrees.

"First, you look at him as a football player, and that's what Ali is," Davis said. "At LSU this kid made all kind of plays. This guy was all over the field. He has a great chance to make it in the NFL."

The road ahead of Highsmith is bumpy. He has the "undrafted" label working against him and the challenge of switching from a 4-3 defense to the 3-4. The competition in training camp will be stiff, but Highsmith has one of the best chances of contributing next year on special teams.

From A Scout's Eye

Form pro scout Tom Marino has more than 35 years of experience in the league. He has mixed reviews on Highsmith:

Here is Marino's take on Highsmith: "A highly productive college football player who was short in stature, did not run well and was slow to react at times. Not impressive from an athletic standpoint, but you have to give him his due (made big plays at critical times). Not a take-on guy, but effectively slipped blocks and got to the ball inside. Secured well as a tackler. Coverage skills marginal (limited depth with questionable route recognition and reactions). Not athletic enough for "Will" backer."

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

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