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August 11, 2012

DePriest confident filling void left by Hightower

TUSCALOOSA | Middle linebacker Trey DePriest is an imposing figure. His talent is pretty overwhelming, too.

The 6-foot-2, 242-pounder from Springfield, Ohio, could have started at a majority of schools his freshman season. He played in all 13 games for the Crimson Tide last season and recorded 25 tackles. DePriest teamed with his best friend, Vinnie Sunseri, to form a fierce special teams tandem. You could always count No. 33 to be in the pile on a kickoff return.

The Tuscaloosa News spoke with the sophomore to find out what he learned from Dont'a Hightower in 2011 and how he plans to apply that knowledge this season.

Q: Are you ready to get the season started?

A: I'm ready for it - hungry, can't wait to get out there and get started.

Q: Was it frustrating last season not getting to play maybe as much as you wanted?

A: There wasn't really no frustration just because this is the school I wanted to go to. This is the school that I picked. I knew coming in I had to pay homage to somebody (Dont'a Hightower) that went with the 25th pick in the first round (of the NFL Draft), so I'm not mad at that at all. I learned from it. That was helpful too.

Q: Was last season what you envisioned?

A: Coming here I knew we were capable of a national championship. Then we started playing and I thought, 'Man, we're really about to do this.' It's the way that we practice, and the things that we do is different than everywhere else. So I knew we were going to be good.

Q: What areas do you feel you've improved from last year?

A: I'm not restricted anymore from knowing the plays. I know what to do now so I can play fast, play harder and run around a little bit more.

Q: What does playing behind a massive defensive tackle like Jesse (Williams), what does that allow you to do?

A: Playing behind Jesse, I can do what I want to do because he keeps them off of us. All I have to do is go make the play.

Q: How intensive is this defense and how much effort does it take to master it?

A: Whew. It takes some dedication, I'll tell you that. You can't just come out here everyday and think you're just going to get it during the install. You're going to have to put some extra time into it. You've got to want to learn it. There's a lot of aspects that go into it and different checks. You have to want to do it.

Q: How comfortable do you feel in the defense now?

A: I feel good with it. As long as everybody communicates and is on the same page, we're going to be alright.

Q: Are there moments when you have to get with the guys to fully understand the concept?

A: Oh yeah. That's always going to happen because some of the stuff runs together so you get kind of confused about it. It can be just a word that clears it up for you. That's why communication is so important out there.

Q: I know you're good friends with Vinnie Sunseri. How has that relationship helped you?

A: We help each other a lot because the communication between the linebackers and the safeties has to be on point or your coverage will get messed up. He's going to make sure I'm good. He's got my back and I've got his.

Q: What are the goals for this year's defense?

A: We can be just as good just because we learned from last year. We learned from the best so you really can't go wrong there.

Q: What was your relationship with Dont'a and how much did he help you?

A:That was my big brother. I was with Dont'a almost every day. We did everything together. We still talk frequently. I talked to him last week. He's told me that I need to step up and be a leader. He said it's easier if I go ahead and take it and grab it.

Q: What's you favorite thing about playing middle linebacker?

A: Going out here and hitting somebody.

Q: Who's been the toughest running back to go up against in practice so far?

A: All of them. You've got Eddie (Lacy) who is big and has speed. You've got (Jalston) Fowler who's humongous. Then you've got Dee Hart and he's real, real quick. T.J. (Yeldon), he's strong and quick. All of them. They're tough.

Q: Any freshmen that have impressed you?

A: The linebackers that I have with me, Reggie (Ragland) and Denzel (Devall) and Tyler (Hayes), they've been doing real good. Dillon (Lee) came in early so he was ahead of them. All of them are picking it up real good. They've kind of surprised me. On offense, all the receivers. Them boys is tough.

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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