TUSCALOOSA | Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams waited two years for their turn.
Perry's chance has arrived, and Williams' chance -- for this season, anyway -- has been taken away by injury. Now, the University of Alabama safeties, whose relationship was formed well before they arrived at the Capstone, are pulling for one another for different reasons.
Perry started his first game at UA against Western Kentucky, while Williams, who sustained a season-ending knee injury during fall camp, watched from the sideline.
"Me and Jarrick have been friends for a couple years and came in together, struggled together and improved together," said Perry, a junior from Prattville. "I think it hurt me a little bit more when he got hurt because we always had the dream of us being on the field together."
Perry and Williams were teammates in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game when the two were high school seniors. Perry, of Prattville, and Williams, of Mobile, saw limited playing time in their first two seasons at Alabama. On Saturday, however, Perry ran out with the first defense against the Hilltoppers at the safety position, playing in Alabama's regular 3-4 defensive set. He was credit with two tackles.
"Robert (Lester) and Vinnie (Sunseri) are both kind of strong safety types and Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) and Nick are both a little more free safety types," said UA coach Nick Saban. "We've been playing Robert and Vinnie at the same time in regular. We felt like we needed more of a free safety type, which Rashad Johnson and guys like that have done a good job for us. Nick did a very good job in the game."
For Williams, the chance for regular playing time will have to wait at least until 2013. But Perry said Williams has, in a sense, put himself in Perry's playing shoes.
"He just told me I'm doing it for him," Perry said. "Just get out there and play hard for me and him, so he's kind of living through me."
On Saturday, Perry may get a chance to face All-Southeastern Conference quarterback Tyler Wilson, whose status for Arkansas is questionable due to a concussion. And although he doesn't have quite the experience of the rest of the Crimson Tide's defensive backfield, he is anticipating the challenge with excitement.
"It's going to be a big time challenge. We have a lot of new players on defense and it's going to be a big test," Perry said. "This game is going to pave the way for the rest of the season."
Saban indicated Perry may have even more of a role against the Razorbacks.
"(He's) very conscientious, very smart, does a good job of making sure he's ready to do his job well," Saban added. "He's going to have to play some roles this week that will be a little bit different for him as well."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.