Dont’a Hightower has incredible size and strength, which makes him look like an NFL linebacker. Hightower is easily one of the hardest hitters in the draft, even when he holds back. He excels against the run; he is a downhill tackler who anchors low and wraps up ball carriers dragging them to the ground. He uses his hands well, effectively grabbing a runner while still being engaged with a blocker.
He reads and reacts quickly and has a motor that allows him to constantly be around the ball. Mostly he powers into the gap, but at times has been patient against more elusive RBs and waited to make the read on them before attacking. He is a sure tackler who doesn’t miss often. Hightower is an experienced blitzer and was used on the outside in pass rush plays. His short speed is explosive allowing him to come off the edge quickly. He sheds blocks easily and attacks the backfield with power. Against the pass, he can take away the first option in the short-intermediate game and can be effective in the middle zone.
Hightower is not a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, and struggles in man coverage taking pursuit angles that are a little off and he has shown a tendency to tackle high. At the next level he could have difficulty covering speedier backs and tight ends in the passing game. He doesn’t open his hips which makes it difficult for him to move around the field. His speed, athleticism, and durability have come into question.
- ILB, Alabama, Jr.
- Ht: 6’4’
- Wt: 260
- 40: 4.6-4.7
Dont’a Hightower captained the best defense in the country on their way to the BCS National Championship Title. Playing in a run-first conference such as the SEC, Hightower was not asked to cover receivers often, but when he did he showed some deficiencies outside of middle zone. This may be because of a lack of experience in man or it could be because the speed and athleticism questions are more fact that fabricated.
The combine drills should help resolve some of the debate. Either way, Hightower’s main function will be as a run-stopper who can pass rush on blitz plays. He had the benefit of playing for almost four years in Nick Saban’s pro-style 3-4 and should continue to excel in that scheme in the NFL. As a sophomore in 2009, Hightower suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and having played in only four games was granted a medical red shirt. Many people felt he was not 100% in 2010 with 69 total tackles (30 solo) and 3.5 TFL, but he bounced back and looked healthy in 2011 with 85 total tackles (41 solo), 11 TFL, four sacks, and an interception.
Dory LeBlanc, co-hosts NFL Draft Cheat Sheet on RotoRadio and freelances for BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You may email Dory at email@example.com or follow her on twitter @DoryLeBlanc