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The SEC's best 25 players: No. 5

Yep, another Alabama player in our countdown. It's safe to say the Crimson Tide have some serious talent ... again:

No. 5: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama

2010 numbers: Hightower started all 13 games, the first three at middle linebacker and the last 10 at weak side linebacker. He finished second on the team with 69 total tackles, including 3.5 for loss. He had nine quarterback hurries and broke up three passes. He was named second-team All-SEC by both the Associated Press and coaches.

Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 postseason countdown.

Making the case for Hightower: From the time he started the season opener as a true freshman in 2008, Hightower has had greatness written all over him. He tore the ACL in his left knee during the fourth game of his sophomore season and was able to get that year of eligibility back. Now fully recovered, the 6-4, 260-pound Hightower says he's back to his old self with the same explosiveness, same speed and same nose for the ball. He will again move around this season depending on down and distance, and one of his most important roles will be rushing the passer off the edge. The Crimson Tide didn't get the kind of consistent pressure they wanted last season, and the combination of Hightower on one side and Courtney Upshaw on the other side should fix that. Hightower is an excellent tackler and a true game-changer with his ability to make the big defensive play. Look for him to make a bunch of them this season.

Previously

  • No. 6: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

  • No. 7: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

  • No. 8: Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama

  • No. 9: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

  • No. 10: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

  • No. 11: Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas

  • No. 12: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

  • No. 13: Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

  • No. 14: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn

  • No. 15: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

  • No. 16: Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas

  • No. 17: Danny Trevathan, LB, Kentucky

  • No. 18: Cordy Glenn, OT, Georgia

  • No. 19: Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas

  • No. 20: Malik Jackson, DT, Tennessee

  • No. 21: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia

  • No. 22: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

  • No. 23: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

  • No. 24: Jaye Howard, DT, Florida

  • No. 25: Janzen Jackson, S, Tennessee