Tide finds what a benefit it is to have a healthy Jarrick Williams
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Sep 17, 2013 | 2159 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama defensive back Jarrick Williams (20) puts a pop on Virginia Tech wide receiver Demitri Knowles, jarring the ball loose in the Tide's season opener. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama defensive back Jarrick Williams (20) puts a pop on Virginia Tech wide receiver Demitri Knowles, jarring the ball loose in the Tide's season opener. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri made the highlight reels for his interception return, but it was safety Jarrick Williams who made the play.

Williams, a redshirt junior, blanketed his man and deflected Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s pass, which popped right into Sunseri’s arms. Sunseri took it 73 yards the other way for one of the Crimson Tide’s touchdowns in its 49-42 win over the Aggies.

“All credit goes to Jarrick Williams, who made a great play,” Sunseri said. “I was just there to catch the ball and run it in for him. He had the great coverage. He batted the ball into the air. I was just the recipient of the ball. All credit goes to him. He had a great game.”

Williams continued to hold his own in coverage for the second straight game. He’s settling into the “star” role, which is Alabama’s fifth defensive back in nickel packages. He took the job from sophomore Geno Smith, who was suspended for the team’s season opener after a preseason arrest for driving under the influence.

Tide coach Nick Saban said Williams has “played really well.” He finally is getting to play a primary role in a big game, which is something he appeared well on his way to doing a year ago.

In the 2012 preseason, Williams played the “money” position, Alabama’s sixth defensive back in certain packages.

He was rising steadily up the pecking order. It wasn't a surprise, considering he came out of Blount High as one of the top defensive back prospects in the nation. He was a four-star prospect and a U.S. Army All-American.

The Mobile native was ranked as the No. 5 safety nationally and the No. 3 player in the state of Alabama by Rivals.com.

Williams showed promise as a young player. He played in 11 games during his first two seasons with the Tide as a reserve safety.

With former Tide star Mark Barron leaving for the NFL after the 2011 season, Williams was expected to see more snaps in 2012 and possibly compete for a starting job.

But he got hurt. He tore a knee ligament in preseason practice, which forced him to undergo surgery and sit out the 2012 season.

He remembers struggling to remain positive about rehabilitation and playing again, and he said at times he felt he wouldn’t be able to make a return.

“The whole thing was like that,” Williams said. “I just had to fight through it, keep a straight head and stay focused.

“There were some days I just wanted to give up, felt like I’d never be the same Jarrick again. Some days I was like, 'I just got to fight through it and see what happens and don’t worry about the knee.' So when I got back on the field, I didn’t think about the knee.”

Williams said he spoke with family members and his mother who “kept me focused and level-headed and (told me) just don’t freak out about it.”

It took a while, but Williams said at about the A-Day Game this past spring, he began to feel 100 percent again. He is also more comfortable with the defensive schemes.

“I think I’m getting better and better at the ‘star’ position,” he said. “Every game, I come out every day ready to practice and ready to learn more.”

At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Williams’ size gives him the ability to play physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage.

“I try to re-route the guy, so I get my hands under them,” Williams said. “That makes me a much better coverage player.”

Sunseri said Williams has been unbelievable and is a great asset to the secondary.

“Jarrick has done exactly what we’ve asked him to do,” Sunseri said. “He’s had great coverage, been really physical at the point of attack and just been a real sound defensive player at that star position. I can’t express how happy I am for him to get the opportunity and take advantage of it like he’s been able to.”
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