2015 NFL DRAFT
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Ali Highsmith, OLB

Height: 6-0 | Weight: 230 | College: LSU
 
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Overview

Highsmith was a solid three-year starter for the Tigers, and was regarded as one of the most athletic and cat-quick linebackers in the collegiate ranks. He was overshadowed by defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey the last two seasons, but coaches and players will tell you Highsmith was their Most Valuable Player. While undersized to play the position in the NFL, he can look to Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks to get a feel for what type of success he could have, as Highsmith is generally compared to that standout All-Pro.

A player known for his punishing tackles and big-play ability, Highsmith almost never suited up for Louisiana State. The cousin of former Miami Hurricane and NFL running back, Alonzo Highsmith, Ali originally signed to attend the University of Miami in 2003, but decided not to enroll.

At Miami Central High, Highsmith was an All-State and All-Conference selection, adding All-South honors from Rivals.com. He was a blue-chip linebacker by Max Emfinger and rated the best linebacker in the state of Florida and the Deep South. He led a defense that allowed just 3.9 points per game in 2002, as he registered 90 tackles, seven sacks, eight caused fumbles and six fumble recoveries, including three for touchdowns during his final senior.

Highsmith once recorded two consecutive fumble recoveries for touchdowns during a Class 6A game vs. powerhouse Killian High. As a junior, he registered 90 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions, going on to earn four letters on the football field.

After sitting out the 2003 season, Highsmith enrolled at Louisiana State in 2004. As a true freshman, he appeared in 12 games, starting vs. Mississippi State and Georgia at strong-side linebacker. He would finish his first season by recording 21 tackles (5 solos), a sack and two stops for losses for the Tigers. He also picked off a pass and recovered a fumble.

In 2005, Highsmith started nine of 13 games at weak-side linebacker. He ranked second on the team with 75 tackles (36 solos), adding four sacks and 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He caused three fumbles and recovered another that he advanced 22 yards for a touchdown.

Highsmith started all 13 games at strong-side linebacker in 2006, earning second-team All-Southeastern Conference recognition. He was hampered late in the season by a left high ankle sprain and then suffered a right ankle sprain vs. Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Both required surgery to repair after his junior campaign. Still, he managed to finish fourth on the team with 63 tackles (26 solos), including three sacks and 5.5 stops for losses. He also caused two fumbles and broke up four passes.

As a senior, he again started all 14 games, lining up at weak-side linebacker. He earned All-American and All-SEC honors. A Butkus Award semifinalist, he tied for the team lead with a career-high 101 tackles (49 solos), as he also collected three sacks and finished third on the team with nine stops behind the line of scrimmage. He ranked second among the Tigers with eight pressures, as he also deflected eight passes, caused two fumbles and recovered another.

In 52 games at Louisiana State, Highsmith started 38 times. He went on to register 260 tackles (116 solos), 11 sacks for minus-87 yards, 26 stops for losses of 109 yards and 10 quarterback pressures. He caused eight fumbles and recovered two others, returning one 22 yards for a touchdown. He gained 10 yards on an interception return and deflected thirteen passes.

Analysis

Positives: Has a shorter-than-ideal frame, but he has a well-defined upper body with a thick chest, broad shoulders, big back, tapered quadriceps and hamstrings, along with good thickness in the calves and thighs … Has the long reach and timing to combat for the pass at its high point … Outstanding competitor with the functional upper body strength to shed (when he keeps his hands inside his framework) … Does a great job of using his speed to give long pursuit and shows crisp cutting ability coming out of his backpedal to make plays on the ball in pass coverage … Very precise with his change-of-direction agility, showing above average flexibility in his pass drops, so much so he could even line up at strong safety and cover in the deep zone … Has an outstanding burst that he combines with excellent ability for making his reads and reacting to the ball … Doesn't get caught out of position vs. the run and shows good awareness in coverage, quickly reacting to the ball in flight … Plays with natural linebacker's instincts and is a classic overachiever who does not let his size stop him from being a solid player … Shows very good effort in pursuit and the coaches cite his leadership and work ethic as the best of any player on the team … Rare to see him caught out of position, as he will generally make quick reads and excels at tracking the ball … Instinctive mover who recovers quickly when he out-runs the play … Solid downhill tackler who shows good urgency attacking the ball at the line of scrimmage, keeping his hands active while working hard to shed … Despite his size, he shows good ability to strike and create separation, as he uses his hands well vs. lead blockers … Will get engulfed by the bigger offensive linemen, but it is rare to see them rock him back … Consistently inverts tight ends and backs in the short-area passing game, doing a very good job of jamming and rerouting receivers. He controls most of the smaller blockers with good hand usage … Has the speed and change of direction agility to get outside and close on the ball vs. the run, as he has the range to make plays from sideline to sideline … Light on his feet doing a nice job of flattening and closing with a sudden burst … Possesses good quickness and agility and outstanding athletic ability to play over the tight end … Does a solid job of avoiding cut blocks while scraping to the outside and has the necessary speed, quickness and agility to get to the ball while in pursuit … Can stop and redirect in an instant, doing a nice job of catching the runner from behind … Needs to refine his angles, but is a sure tackler with valid explosion and strength to drop and strike backs with good pop on contact … Solid face-up striker who explodes with his hips behind his hits … Shows good change-of-direction to make tackles in the open field and has more than enough quickness to drop back in man coverage … Has good hip flexibility and does a good job of not allowing wide receivers to separate, looking smooth and athletic in his pass drops … Peddles and turns with supple hip moves for a linebacker, getting depth quickly and easily … Knows how to open his hips and flip them in his pass drops down the middle … Shows good route awareness, as well as a sudden burst to break on the ball … Displays good speed and power on blitzes, as he counters speed rushes with a good bull rush … Sudden off the edge and redirects well on the move, especially when blitzing … Has the soft hands to look the ball in away from the frame and can athletically scoop for the low ball (just has not had many interception chances) … Has played on punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return units while at LSU, showing the speed, athletic ability, toughness and demeanor to be a solid special-teams player at the next level.

Negatives: Has a well-developed frame, but lacks the height and bulk you look for in a linebacker … Must improve his lower body strength, as bigger blockers have had some success in blowing him off the line of scrimmage … Active with his hands, but when they get too wide outside his framework, he struggles to shed … Gets engulfed by the offensive linemen trying to shed in tight quarters … Gets a bit reckless in his pursuit and lacks ideal stop-and-go action, resulting in him leaving his feet and lunging at ballcarriers in attempts to get back into the play … Decent blitzer, but must refine his pursuit route, as he is prone to taking poor angles … Explodes behind his hits, but must get into better position as he will sometimes take a side and try to deliver arm tackles rather than wrapping to secure … Gets washed out of the play vs. stronger pulling guards and lacks a strong anchor to split double teams … Shows very good timed speed, but there could be future medical issues as he has had to have bone spurs removed from both ankles in successive seasons … Must generate a stronger hand punch and better placement taking on blockers at the line of scrimmage (does show good placement in attempts to reroute and mirror in pass coverage) … Has valid field instincts, but his low Wonderlic score (7/13) in a concern.

Compares To: DERRICK BROOKS-Tampa Bay … Smart, instinctive, smaller-than-ideal, but with a big heart are ways to describe these two. Highsmith is not the patient tackler Brooks is, but he has great range to close on the ball and would be even better if he can grasp the concept of taking better angles in pursuit. He has the rare speed needed to force the outside running game back inside and does an outstanding job of reading and reacting to the ball in flight. The next Derrick Brooks? With his ability to defeat cut blocks and scrape to the outside, he's as close as you will find to the Bucs' perennial All-Pro.

Career Notes

Highsmith's 26 tackles behind the line of scrimmage rank 12th in school history, but it places him fourth among Tiger linebackers, topped only by Michael Brooks (38, 1983-86), Ron Sancho (37, 1985-88) Rydell Malancon (28, 1980-83) … His 19 tackles vs. Arkansas in 2007 rank fourth on the school's game-record list, behind Al Richardson (21 vs. South Carolina in 1982), Toby Caston (20 vs. Georgia in 1986) and Rudy Harmon (20 vs. Florida in 1988).

2007 Season

All-American first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report, Associated Press and CBS Sports.com … Earned All-Southeastern Conference first-team honors from the league's coaches … Semi-finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in the nation …

Started all fourteen games at weak-side linebacker, leading a unit that ranked third in the nation in total defense (288.79 ypg), ninth in pass defense (182.71 ypg), 12th in rush defense (106.07 ypg) and 17th in scoring defense (19.93 ppg) … Tied safety Craig Steltz for the team lead with a career-high 101 tackles (49 solos) … Posted three sacks for minus 27 yards, as he ranked third on the team with nine stops for losses of 39 yards and second with eight quarterback pressures … Recovered a fumble and caused two others … Also deflected eight passes.

2007 Game Analysis

Mississippi State … Opened the season with eight tackles (5 solos), including a stop for a loss and also deflected a pass … MSU tailback Anthony Dixon was stopped at the line of scrimmage three times by Highsmith on running plays during the game, including on a third-and-2 carry that killed a late first quarter series.

Virginia Tech … The defense manhandled Tech in a 48-7 victory, as Highsmith totaled six tackles (3 solos) with a stop for a 3-yard loss, two pressures and a pass deflection … He pressured QB Sean Glennon into throwing a third-and-3 incomplete pass, forcing Tech to punt late in the first quarter … The linebacker was penalized twice, including once for roughing the passer, but he continued to play with a relentless motor … Early in the second quarter, he knocked down a Glennon pass at the line of scrimmage … On Tech's next drive, he teamed with linebacker Luke Sanders to tackle tailback Branden Ore for a 3-yard loss near midfield and two plays later, Highsmith again pressured Glennon on a third-and-13 incomplete toss, forcing the Hokies to punt.

Middle Tennessee State … Highsmith produced seven tackles (4 solos), assisting defensive end Kirston Pittman in sacking QB Joe Craddock for a 5-yard loss early in the second quarter … Earlier in the game, Highsmith flipped Craddock to the ground for no gain on an option run.

South Carolina … The weak-side linebacker delivered ten tackles (2 solos) and broke up one pass … He brought down tailback Cory Boyd for no gain on a rushing attempt at the SC 30 on the game's opening drive … In the fourth quarter, he tackled Boyd for a 1-yard loss on a goal line play, forcing SC to settle for a 23-yard field goal.

Florida … Highsmith collected four tackles (2 solos), as he caused a fumble and deflected two passes … He batted away a Tim Tebow third-and-6 pass intended for Percy Harvin, as the Gators settled for a 31-yard field goal on the game's opening series … Late in the third quarter, he stripped the ball from tailback Kestahn Moore and LSU middle linebacker Darry Beckwith recovered it at midfield.

Kentucky … In a tough 43-37 loss, Highsmith posted eight tackles (2 solos) and assisted on three stops behind the line of scrimmage … He teamed with defensive end Kirston Pittman to stop tailback Tony Dixon for a 4-yard loss on an early second quarter run and that duo teamed up again to tackle Derrick Locke for a 4-yard loss on a carry at the start of the fourth quarter.

Auburn … Highsmith made eleven tackles (7 solos), including one that stopped Brad Lester for no gain on a mid first quarter rushing attempt … Later in the opening frame, he sacked QB Brandon Cox for a 7-yard loss on a third-and-11 play, forcing Auburn to punt.

Louisiana Tech … The weak-side linebacker was in on just three solo tackles and a pass break-up, but he also recovered a fumble by QB Zac Champion at the Tech 24 on the game's second play from scrimmage, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by LSU QB Matt Flynn … His pass break-up came on Champion's third-and-2 toss later in the opening frame.

Mississippi … Highsmith delivered seven tackles (3 solos) and broke up a pass, as he also teamed with defensive end Tyoka Jackson to take down tailback B.J. Green-Ellis for a 2-yard loss on a mid first quarter carry.

Arkansas … In another tough overtime loss (50-48), Highsmith registered a career-high 19 tackles (7 solos) … He stopped tailback Felix Jones for no gain on a rushing attempt to start the second quarter and tackled Darren McFadden behind the line of scrimmage on a rushing attempt at the beginning of the fourth frame … Record Watch-Highsmith's 19 tackles rank fourth on the school's game-record list, topped by Al Richardson (21 vs. South Carolina in 1982), Toby Caston (20 vs. Georgia in 1986) and Rudy Harmon (20 vs. Florida in 1988).

Tennessee (SEC Championship Game) … Highsmith followed with seven tackles (3 solos) and a pair of pressures, including one that forced QB Erik Ainge to throw the ball away on third-and-9 midway through the first quarter, forcing the Vols to punt.

Ohio State (BCS Championship Game) … Highsmith closed out his career with eight tackles (3 solos), 1.5 sacks for minus 18 yards and a forced fumble, to lead LSU to the national championship … He assisted in sacking QB Todd Boeckman for a 3-yard loss six minutes into the second half … Early in the fourth quarter, he sacked Boeckman for minus 16 yards, causing a fumble that LSU's Harry Coleman recovered at the OSU 45, returning the ball 14 yards.

2006 Season

Second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection by the league's coaches … Semi-finalist for the Butkus Award … Lined up at the "Buck" (strong-side) linebacker position, starting all thirteen games, despite having problems with both of his ankles late in the year that required surgery to repair after the season … Helped the team rank third in the nation in total defense (242.77 ypg), fourth in scoring defense (12.62 ppg), third in pass defense (145.69 ypg) and 14th in rush defense (97.08 ypg) … Finished fourth on the team with 63 tackles (26 solos), as he totaled three sacks for minus 13 yards and 5.5 stops for losses of 16 yards … Caused two fumbles and deflected four passes.

2006 Game Analysis

Pressured QB Willie Tuitama into throwing an interception and made three assisted tackles vs. Arizona … Had six hits (3 solos) and a pass break-up vs. Auburn … Was in on seven tackles (6 solos), causing a fumble on a 9-yard sack of QB Chris Leak, as he also deflected a pass in the Florida clash … Registered eight tackles (4 solos), as he twice sacked QB Kevin O'Connell and delivered three stops behind the line of scrimmage vs. Fresno State … Collected five tackles with two pass break-ups and caused a fumble vs. Tennessee … Credited with eight tackles, assisting on a stop for a loss in the Alabama contest … Had ten tackles (3 solos) and a stop for a loss vs. Mississippi … Made just one tackle before being forced to the sidelines with a left high ankle sprain in the season finale vs. Arkansas … Came back to deliver five tackles vs. Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, but suffered a right ankle sprain.

2005 Season

Started nine of thirteen games at weak-side linebacker, coming off the bench in the Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Georgia contests … Finished second on the team with 75 tackles (36 solos), adding four sacks for minus 36 yards, 9.5 stops for losses of 43 yards and a quarterback pressure … Caused three fumbles and recovered another that he returned 22 yards for a touchdown … Also deflected a pass … Part of a unit that ranked third in the nation in total defense (266.85 ypg) and scoring defense (14.23 ppg), sixth in rush defense (91.54 ypg) and 11th in pass defense (175.31 ypg).

2005 Game Analysis

Opened the season with eight tackles (5 solos) and a pass deflection vs. Arizona State, as the Tigers were forced to play their delayed home opener in Arizona due to Hurricane Katrina … Returned a fumble recovery 22 yards for a touchdown, causing that turnover on one of his two sacks of QB Jay Cutler for losses of 21 yards in the Vanderbilt clash … Had eight tackles (5 solos) with two sacks of QB Chris Leak for minus 15 yards and 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors in the Florida game … Posted eight assisted tackles vs. Auburn and was in on another eight stops in the Appalachian State contest … Credited with five tackles (2 solos) vs. Miami in the Peach Bowl.

2004 Season

Appeared in twelve games, starting at strong-side linebacker vs. Mississippi State and Georgia … Recorded 21 tackles (5 solos) with an 11-yard sack, two stops behind the line of scrimmage and a quarterback pressure … Recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass for a 10-yard return.

2004 Game Analysis

Intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble, adding five tackles vs. Arkansas State … Made a season-high six tackles vs. Mississippi State.

2003 Season

Originally signed with Miami (Fla.) in 2003 … Never enrolled at Miami due to academics.

Injury Report

2006: Missed most of the Arkansas game (11/24) after he suffered a left high ankle sprain in the first quarter … Sprained his left ankle vs. Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl (1/03), undergoing surgery on both ankles after the season to remove bone spurs.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.51 in the 40-yard dash … 405-pound bench press … 560-pound squat … 319-pound power clean … 33.5-inch vertical jump … 31 1/8-inch arm length … 9 1/4-inch hands … Right-handed … 7/13 Wonderlic score.

High School

A blue-chip linebacker rated among the best in Florida and the Deep South in 2003 … Leader of the top defense (3.9 points per game) in Dade County in 2002 … Had 90 tackles, seven sacks, eight caused fumbles and six fumble recoveries, including three for touchdowns during his senior season in 2002 … Recorded two consecutive fumble recoveries for touchdowns during a Sept. 4 game vs. 6A powerhouse Killian … Recorded 90 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions as a junior in 2001 … Clocked at 4.50 in the 40-yard dash … A four-year letterman at Central High School … Coached by Tony Saunders.

Personal

Communication Studies major … Cousin, Alonzo Highsmith, is currently a scout for the Green Bay Packers. A 6'1", 235-pound running back from the University of Miami, Alonzo Highsmith was selected by the Houston Oilers in the first round (third pick overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. Alonzo was a member of the 1983 Miami Hurricanes squad that won the national championship with a 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. He played in six NFL seasons from 1987 to 1992 for the Oilers, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a running back. Due to a series of knee injuries, he retired from professional football after the 1992 season. Following his football career, Highsmith became a professional boxer. Over a four-year career, Highsmith amassed a 27-1-1 record in the heavyweight division, with 17 of those victories coming by way of knockout … Alonzo's father and Ali's uncle, Walter, was also a successful football player and coach. He, like Alonzo, played for the Oilers in 1972. Walter was also the former head coach of Texas Southern University and has enjoyed several coaching stints in college football and the CFL … The Highsmiths' cousin, Paul Little, is a successful violinist and composer in New York while his uncle, Paul Balfour, is a successful pianist, harpist and singer … Son of Venus and Elvis Highsmith … Nickname is "Ali" … Born Arlington Louis Highsmith on 1/20/85 in Miami, Florida.

 
 
 

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