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April 5, 2010

Notebook: Hightower's knee passes last big test

TUSCALOOSA _ Although University of Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower predicted that he might "take someone's head off" when he finally gets into a game again, last week was the closest thing he's come to it in quite a while when the Crimson Tide held its first spring scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"I think it was Demetrius Goode, and I didn't get him the way I wanted to," Hightower said Monday about the first hit. "But he knew that I was there."

A little more than six months after he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus, Hightower cleared the final big test in his recovery, playing in a full-contact situation without any setbacks.

"I think the scrimmage went pretty well," he said. "As far on the defensive side there's a lot of room for improvement. We look really good and there's a lot of guys flying to the ball, but we have to get everybody on the same page as far as mental errors and the focus and a little more effort.

"As far as my knee goes, I feel really good."

Hightower was credited with three tackles, a pass broken up and one sack. In terms of mobility, he estimated that he was "about 90 percent."

"When I'm on the field I don't really worry about my knee or think anything about it," Hightower said. "But when I'm watching film there's a couple of plays where I sometimes favor it when someone gets close to it. Hopefully I can get that mental aspect out of the way."

Hightower said it was "still up in the air" as for where he'll line up on every down," but knows he'll be on the end in pass-rushing situations, presumably at the Jack position.

Mix and match, part I
Alabama held its first practice after Friday's scrimmage and after the individual drills started moving players around on the offensive line.

Through individual drills the players lined up in the same spots as last week with one exception on the third unit at left guard.

First unit (from left to right): James Carpenter, Chance Warmack, David Ross, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker.

Second unit: Tyler Love, Anthony Steen, Brian Motley, John Michael Boswell and Alfred McCullough.

Third unit: Taylor Pharr, Allen Skelton, Chad Lindsay, Kellen Williams, Austin Shepherd.

Once the line started doing unit drills Jones was lining up at right tackle with both the first and second units and Steen was at right guard. On the second unit, Fluker took snaps at left tackle, McCullough was at left guard and Bowell was at right tackle.

"We just have a bunch of different guys playing a bunch of different positions, to find what combination works best," quarterback Greg McElroy said. "They're really starting to step it up mentally which is the biggest thing for them. Physically, they're all big, strong and fast, they're athletic. It's just the mental aspect, getting in the right position, the communication aspect and things like that. That's the difficult part for the younger guys."

He added: "We're be ready to go. They're looking good and a lot of guys will be able to play a lot of different positions, they're very versatile."

Mix and match, part II
Jerrell Harris was back working with the outside linebackers and Chris Jordan with the interior linebackers. By the end of last week Harris was at weakside linebacker and Jordan was playing strongside.

"He's gotten a lot better from last year," Hightower said about Harris. "We're trying to find a spot for where he can play best. He's using his speed a lot, his strong points way better than last year. We're looking for him to be a big playmaker this year."

Kendell Kelly was back learning free safety while Brandon Gibson was at wide receiver. Both are getting time at safety to learn the position as a precautionary measure.

Injury report
Linebacker Nico Johnson, who sustained a sprained knee during Friday's scrimmage, rode an exercise bike alongside center William Vlachos during practice. Vlachos is not expected to practice this spring after having foot surgery.

Linebacker Tana Patrick wore black, signaling no contact, as did outside linebacker Milton Talbert.

Defensive end Marcell Dareus was without his elbow/arm brace for the first time since sustaining the injury last season, but Undra Billingsley sported one on his right arm.

Tide-bits
Defensive end Darrington Sentimore was not at practice. He had ben working behind Billingsley backing up Dareus. Antony Orr was in his spot Monday, ahead of William Ming.

ESPN's College Football Live will return Tuesday afternoon and feature a live interview with Nick Saban. Friday's show will have the debut of the show's top 25 poll.

The Alumni Association announced that the Ole Miss game on Oct. 16 will be Alabama's homecoming.

Hightower on the defense replacing so many starters: "I feel like Alabama's defense is always known to be one of the strong points of the team and of the nation as well. It's not just that we want it, but it's expected of us too. We use that as motivation. We may not be as big as we were last year, but we have a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism."


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