Linebacker will have MRI today
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— Dont’a Hightower’s blank stare said it all.
Alabama’s rising star linebacker had little expression on his face as he crutched off the Bryant-Denny Stadium field following Saturday’s 35-7 win over Arkansas. His season is in danger.
He went to the turf in the first quarter with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. The extent of the issue will become clear following an MRI scheduled for today.
“The initial prognosis is not good,” Saban said about the linebacker who he called the best pass rusher on the team.
If the injury is season-ending, Hightower likely would not be eligible for a medical redshirt because he appeared in four games this season. NCAA rules say players cannot play in 20 percent of the scheduled contests to qualify for the medical hardship waiver.
A visibly frustrated Hightower left the field on the back of a cart to an ovation from the Bryant-Denny fans seated near the north end zone.
After returning to the bench on his crutches, Hightower was surrounded by concerned teammates. He cracked a smile when nose guard Terrence Cody sat down beside him and put his arm around his injured teammate.
Fellow linebacker Cory Reamer said Hightower wasn’t too upset when they spoke after the game.
“He’s always got a smile on his face, so even when something like this happens, it doesn’t bring him down too much,” Reamer said.
The injury meant reassignments and the emergence of Courtney Upshaw. The sophomore came in to play Jack linebacker, which meant Eryk Anders, moved over to Sam linebacker. Reamer shifted to Will to fill in for Hightower while Rolando McClain stayed at Mike linebacker.
Should Hightower be lost for the season, the blow would be significant although not crushing. Seen as one of the top young linebackers in the nation, Hightower was a freshman All-American last season and the team’s third leading tackler with 14 entering Saturday’s game.
He recorded a pair of assists before going down with the injury with 1:17 showing on the first-quarter clock.
After the win, Saban spoke about the influence Hightower had on the team.
“He doesn’t get talked about enough, he’s a fine young man and a great leader on our team,” Saban said. “He’s one of our best football players on the entire team.”