We've noted all the shuffling on both the defensive line and among the linebackers so far this season, and it's looking like the moves will keep coming until the staff finds the right group. Nico Johnson got his first start of the year against Arkansas after filling the injured shoes of Dont'a Hightower at Will for a large part of last season, and now he's stepping in right behind him again. Per Kausler, Hightower is back at Will while Johnson is working at Mike, a strange turn of events considering Johnson was almost an afterthought during the fall and Chris Jordan had supposedly made enough progress at Mike to be Hightower's backup.
Gut instinct here is that Hightower was maybe in a little over his head calling the defense and wasn't comfortable enough there to really be effective. We've already talked about the disturbing note on how both Hightower and Mark Barron, two of the very few veterans on the defense, "hanging their heads" at half time at Arkansas, and I have to wonder if moving Hightower back to the position he was used to and taking some of the pressure off of him had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, the results seemed to (slightly) please the Nicktator and prompt him to keep working with that particular grouping for the time being:
"We played the run a little bit better," Saban said of the Arkansas game. "We also moved Dont'a back to where he played most of his career, the money position, and I think he's a little more comfortable there.
"I think the combination of those two things is what contributed to us playing the run a little bit better. This is a good running team we're playing this week, so we'll certainly have to do a good job against the running plays they have and the speed they have on the perimeter."
Again, it's another interesting move in a currently fluid front seven as we prepare for yet another tough test against Florida. Here's hoping we've finally found the right combination.