Biography: All-conference selection the past two seasons and named to several All-American teams last year with totals of 81 tackles/9.5 tackles for loss/3 sacks. Also added one interception and broke up three more passes. 2010 totals included 69 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Started the first four games in 2009 before tearing the ACL in his left knee. Started 12 games as a true freshman in 2008 and posted 64 tackles.
Positives: Large, powerful run-defending linebacker who displays the ability to be a difference-maker. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands to protect himself and is powerful at the point. Forceful up the field, defeats blocks on his way to the ballcarrier and is a tremendous open-field tackler. Easily brings down ballcarriers at the initial point of contact. Remains disciplined with assignments and does a solid job reading the action. Delivers devastating hits and is an intimidating force. Flashes skill in zone coverage.
Negatives: Does not always play with a great sense of urgency and seems like he's going half speed at times. Lacks top lateral speed and struggles cutting off the corners from ballcarriers. Does not possess a quick backpedal and can be a liability in one-on-one coverage situations.
Analysis: Hightower is a dominant run-defending linebacker who could play in the middle of a conventional defense or a 3-4 alignment. He possesses a great amount of upside and will produce at the next level if he focuses on the task at hand and plays in the proper system.
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