Summer Stock: Alabama

Dont'a Hightower believes Alabama's D can be as good as the 2009 edition. David Brown/Icon SMI

This article is part of our Summer Stock series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Dont'a Hightower wasn't wearing a uniform when Alabama beat the Texas Longhorns to win the 2009 BCS title. But even in his crimson-and-white warmups, the injured linebacker says he could literally feel the energy emanating inside the Rose Bowl. Never had he seen his teammates play with such intensity and abandon, nor the joy that followed when they cradled the crystal football.

He's determined to recreate that scene, this time with his helmet on.

"I'll go down as being part of it, but in a way I wasn't," says Hightower, a freshman All-America in 2008 before tearing his left ACL in the fourth game of his second season. "I've yet to play in a game where guys showed so much passion. I want to be a part of that before my college career is over."

A possible first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, this could be the 6-foot-4, 260-pound redshirt junior's final chance. Luckily for Hightower, the Crimson Tide is on the rise. At least the metrics say so.

According to the early 2011 Program FEI rankings (Brian Fremeau's five-year weighted rating for possession efficiency), Alabama is the BCS favorite. And if you're looking for reason to trust the rankings, consider this: The past 10 BCS title game participants have entered the season in the PFEI's top 20.