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Cory Reamer

Alabama's Hightower handling challenges as defensive leader after knee injury

Dont'a Hightower has a long to-do list for Alabama's fall camp: Change positions, replace a Butkus Award winner, return from a serious knee injury and take charge of the national champions' defense.That's enough to stress anyone out.Instead, Crimson Tide linebacker seems to be settling nicely into Rolando McClain's spot in the middle as the primary playcaller on a defense that has undergone quite a transformation."It's kind of a tough thing trying to replace Rolando, because he was such a great player and he knew the defense so perfectly," he said. "It's been a tough journey, but I feel so comfortable in it now, I feel like I've played mike since I've been here. I'm so comfortable making all the checks and making all the calls and audibles."Hightower is handling it well enough that he has consistently drawn the praise of Tide coach Nick Saban .He is one of the team's most experienced defenders even though he's only played one full year. Hightower sustained torn ACL and MCL ligaments in...

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