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Nico pre-season favorite for Butkus award

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama and Auburn both have two players on the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award.

The Crimson Tide’s Dont’a Hightower and Nico Johnson and the Tigers’ Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens were on the list.

Alabama’s Rolando McClain won the award as the nation’s top linebacker last season.

Hightower was a starter until a season-ending knee injury four games into the season in 2009. Johnson is a sophomore who logged three starts and had 28 tackles last season.

Bynes and Stevens were the Tigers’ defensive mainstays. The two seniors combined for 199 tackles last season.