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November 22, 2011

Notebook: Hightower talks Butkus Award

TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were named two of six finalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top player at the position.

"I'm definitely honored," Hightower said. "It's something I've really wanted since coming to the university. I've always had my own goals, and getting the Butkus was definitely one of them. Especially after Rolando (McClain) got it. I try to match him on things he does."

Hightower leads the team in tackles with 72, while Upshaw leads UA in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (6.5). Other Butkus Award finalists include Nebraska's Lavonte David, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Boston College's Luke Kuechly and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.

Hightower the fact that he and a teammate were both named finalists speaks to the strength of UA's linebacking corps as a whole.

"It shows everyone we're both competitors," Hightower added. "It means a lot when you have two guys on the same team up for the same award, regardless of what award it is. Me and Courtney have been close ever since we've gotten here. We're like brothers."

Only twice previously has an Alabama player won the Butkus Award - Derrick Thomas in 1988, and Rolando McClain in 2009.

UA safety Mark Barron, named a finalist for the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, said the Thorpe honor was also a goal of his.

"That's always been one of my goals -- I'm happy about that," Barron said. "Hopefully I'll be able to bring that home."

Richardson feeling strong
Just a week after posting a career-high 32 carries against Mississippi State, UA running back Trent Richardson matched that total in a 45-21 win over Georgia Southern Saturday. The junior, however, said he is feeling no ill effects from 64 carries over a two-game stretch.

"I feel good. God blessed me with a gift. This year he's helped me through a lot," Richardson said. "Our trainers do a real good job at what they do. They're not letting us down. They're staying on us about staying in the training room, making sure we stay fit for this next game."

UA coach Nick Saban said Richardson has shown an ability to get stronger as a game wears on. Richardson has rushed for over 180 yards twice this season, and over 100 eight times.

"I think you've got two sides where people are just so passionate on whichever side they're on. It means a lot to everybody in this state, no matter whether you play on a team or you just watch it on TV. It's very important to a lot of people. It's obviously very important to us." - UA center William Vlachos on the Iron Bowl rivalry.

Did you know?
Only once in the last nine Iron Bowls has an Alabama running back rushed for over 100 yards. That came in 2008 when Glen Coffee ran for 144 yards on 20 carries.

Freshman running back Dee Hart returned to practice Tuesday after being away from the team for more than a week due to personal issues. Hart, who is recovering from a knee injury, is not expected to play this season. ... UA coach Nick Saban will hold a post-practice news conference Wednesday, and the team will break for Thanksgiving. ... The "Hey Coach" radio program will air tonight, rather than Thursday, due to the holiday.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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