Positives -- Big body and strong build, is a very physical player with the frame to disrupt plays at the line of scrimmage, 4.68-40 at the combine was impressive for a thumping, 265 pound middle linebacker... Is not afraid of contact and is very intense on the field and at practice, can make explosive
hits... Does not get out of position often, is rarely fooled by misdirection plays... Good at taking on blockers and not getting pushed away from plays, maintains hand control when being blocked, which allows him to get a hand on the ball carrier with a blocker in his face... Has experience blitzing off the edge, adequate at bull-rushing blockers into the backfield... Is good at using big frame to plug running lanes and take on blockers in the hole... Good leadership qualities, has the respect of his teammates for attitude both on and off the field... Diligent in the film room, knows where he is supposed to be and generally maintains responsibilities... Could also appeal to 4-3 teams looking for a strongside outside linebacker; has had a good offseason and should receive late first round consideration.
Negatives -- Durability a major concern, tore ACL in 2009, which is a worrisome injury for a player with his bulk... Can be slow to diagnose plays, but makes up for that flaw by knowing his assignments and sticking with them... Size and stiff hips a major drawback in pass coverage, decent in zone coverage, but not a man-to-man defender by any means... Doesn't play at the same speed on film as he ran at the combine, had drawn comparisons to former Florida and current New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes who ran a 5.01-40 at his pro day prior to the 2010 Draft; does not go sideline to sideline very well, takes inconsistent pursuit angles that can take him out of plays... Not really a playmaker, and will most likely not make many game-changing plays in the NFL.
At Alabama -- (Official School Bio) Dont'a Hightower returns for his fourth season in Tuscaloosa after bypassing the NFL Draft for another season at the helm of the Tide defense in 2011... emerged as one of the stars of the 2008 freshman class, but a knee injury in the fourth game of the 2009 season ended his sophomore campaign... granted a medical redshirt after knee injury in 2009 will be a junior in 2011... a physically imposing linebacker with great speed and a nose for the football... has made 29 starts at linebacker while playing in 31 games... has 149 career tackles with 10.0 tackles for loss, one sack and 17 quarterback hurries... in 2008, earned first-team Freshman All-America honors by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and was a second-team Freshman All-American by Sporting News... earned Freshman All-SEC recognition by Southeastern Conference coaches... selected for the team's Defensive Achievement Award, which goes to the underclassman who has played a critical role in the effectiveness of his unit... was one of 11 true freshmen to start a season opener since 1972 and one of 16 true freshmen on the 2008 team to see playing time... added the jack linebacker position to his arsenal in 2009 and provided the Tide with a more effective third down pass rush... won the Mal Moore Leadership Award following spring practice in 2010... in the spring of 2011, he won the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award. 2010: 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.
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