Perry May Be Back In Nick Of Time
Alabama started last season with an experienced corps at safety. Although Nick Perry was considered a back-up, he was a veteran with a lot of game experience and a few starts on his resume. HaHa Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri would be the starters. Now both Clinton-Dix and Sunseri have departed for the NFL. Along with the loss of senior cornerbacks Deion Belue and John Fulton, and the cornerback spots in 2013 being generally inconsistent, the secondary is an area of emphasis this spring.
The Tide is off from spring practice Thursday, will have a polish up day Friday, and then have its first scrimmage (and seventh of 15 practices) on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Bama is working towards the A-Day Game to conclude spring drills on April 19.
Perry, 6-1, 211, from Prattville, said, "It's great to be back. I took a lot of months off and I was ready to get back out there and hit somebody."
Actually, he wasn't completely ready to hit someone. "I'm 100 per cent now," he said. "I was a little sluggish at first, but now I'm picking up my pace and ready to go full go. Anytime you have a serious injury like that you're going to be cautious of it. But that's what I'm here for this spring to get used to (contact). Right now there's no hesitation."
Perry is not exactly sure what happened to him. "I think I just made a play and something didn't feel right in the shoulder," he said. "They checked me out at halftime. They told me I might have a dislocated shoulder and thtat it was sliding.
"I decided to play with it, but I hurt it in practice the next week and they told me to get it checked out by a doctor."
The result, of course, was season-ending surgery. Perry thought his career at Bama was over, but learned he qualified for a redshirt season.
"I was like, ‘I'm up for it,'" he said. "I'm happy here. I love it here. Anytime you can play with the same group of guys for four years, play with your brothers. Nothing is purer than college football. I jumped at the chance to come back."
Saturday's scrimmage is an important step for all players.
Perry said, "I'm a little different because it's my first time being able to go full go in a couple of months. It's a little sweeter for me so I'm probably going to take it a little more serious than everyone else out there."
He said he also is ready mentally. "I've been here five years now so I really have a good grasp on the defense," Perry said. "My main job right now is to really be a leader for the young guys because a lot of guys moved on like HaHa (Clinton-Dix) and Vinnie (Sunseri) and Deion Belue. So it's me and Jarrick Williams as the upperclassmen right now so we're looked upon as leaders."
He also said that he brings "experience and knowledge. Not a lot of teams can have a fifth-year safety out there controlling the defense."
Perry has played in 31 previous Alabama games with four starts. He has been involved in 41 tackles, has a fumble recovery, and has broken up four passes. Almost all of that came in 2012 when he played in every game. He was in on 38 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery, and two pass break-ups. That year he had 10 tackles as a starter in a key win at LSU.
Starting would mean a lot to Perry in his final season he said. He said he wants to "leave my mark at UA."
One aspect of practice this spring is that Bama Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart is back coaching safeties after a couple of years of working with linebackers. Perry said having Head Coach Nick Saban and Smart "two of the best defensive back minds in one room is kind of overwhelming at first. But in the long run, it's going to be great for us. We're going to have a different feel in the secondary this year."
Perry sees good things from younger defensive backs.
"The young guys are picking it up very well," he said. "I know we didn't have the year we wanted to have in the secondary last year and I think the sophomores (freshman last year) are getting a better grasp of the defense. They're playing with a little more confidence.
"(Landon Collins) has gotten stronger, faster and has more knowledge of the defense. At times last year, he wasn't really sure of himself. But now he's fully confident and I think you'll see a different Landon Collins this season."
He said true freshmen Tony Brown (cornerback) and Hootie Jones (safety) "are two smart guys. Those guys are picking up the defense a lot faster than I've seen any freshman. Tony is very competitive. He doesn't like to lose. Even out there in 7-on-7 or one-on-ones, he's fighting for the ball a couple minutes after the ball has been caught. Hootie has the size and the speed. He's picking up the defense very well. Expect to see more of those guys this year."
Perry was asked about the toughest Bama wide receiver he covers in practice. No big surprise there with Amari Cooper on the team. "All of the guys are great, but you have to go with Coop," Perry said. "He's a monster. He's one of the best receivers I've seen and I've been here for five years. I've practiced against Julio (Jones), practiced against (Marquis) Maze. Coop is just a different breed.
"He works hard. He's probably outside right now (Wednesday evening after practice) working on his route running. He never has any down time. It's always work, work, work."
He also commented on true freshman wide receiver Cam Sims.
"Cam is great," Perry said. "Cam is a big threat down field. He has good speed, has great hands and can use his body real well. I think we're going to be able to use him this year."
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