As we hit the summer portion of the offseason, Touchdown Alabama Magazine will be releasing a series of player spotlight pieces on starters and marquee contributors for the 2019 football season. In these articles, we will dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each player, provide expectations for 2019, give NFL Draft projections for those who are eligible, and conclude with how each one can impact the team.
The next defender is Patrick Surtain II.
2018 Stats: 37 tackles, 1 interception, 7 pass deflections
Not since the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick has a defensive back been able to make such a big impact so early in his career at Alabama. Patrick Surtain II was thrown into the fire of starting at corner under Nick Saban, halfway through the 2018 season when teammate Trevon Diggs went down with a broken foot.
A lot of things could have happened. He could have shrunk and replaced within a week, he could’ve gone out there and got himself hurt because of his inexperience. Instead, Surtain II took this challenge head-on and was able to put together a strong freshman season with the crimson tide.
Not too often do young players, in general, come into Saban lead teams and have an impact. But over the last couple of seasons more and more players have been called upon to contribute at a young age to try and help out the team. And it’s because of players like Surtain II and Tua Tagovailoa, who both have a maturity beyond their years, are able to make this transition seamless.
It also doesn’t hurt if you were the top-ranked cornerback in the 2018 class. Having a parent who played in the NFL can be useful as well.
Patrick Surtain I could tell that his son was special by the time he was 10 years old when he watched him use sound mechanics to intercept a pass. It was these types of skills which Surtain II has carried over to his college career.
One of the reasons Surtain II was able to find his way to the field last season was because of his sound technique and great size. Saban really likes it when he is able to play bigger corners so they can defend multiple pass catchers along with being able to have more support in the run game.
Surtains measurables along with his attention to detail really make him one of the most intriguing corners in the country.
Defending against elite teams
Obviously, every player will have a hard time playing against great teams, let alone a freshman quarterback in the college football playoff. Nonetheless, last winter was basically the first time that Surtain II faced elite college receivers and quarterbacks and to be frank it didn’t go so well.
The first round of the College Football Playoff against Oklahoma was where it really all began. Kyler Murray and Cedee Lamb connected eight times for 108 yards and a touchdown with Surtain II in coverage for most of those plays.
Surtain II found a lot of issue within the matchup with back shoulder throws in particular in the second half of the game. Understand that when thrown perfectly back-shoulder passes are among the most unguardable plays in the game of football. Period. But it is an unrealistic expectation that every one of those passes from Murray was pure perfection.
The College Football National Championship was not one to stick on a resume for anyone involved but quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his receivers, again found a lot of success against the secondary.
Most of this can be attributed to one big aspect of Surtain II last season. His youth. I know he did a great job stepping up last season against SEC opponents but in the playoff, he faced and will likely face again, the best of the best. It was probably the first time in his career where he went up against two great passing teams in back to back weeks.
This sort of thing doesn’t get figured out quickly by everyone. Even the best defensive backs at Alabama have had their fair share of growing pains and Surtain II is no different.
Patrick Surtain II is expected to take the next step in his development toward becoming an elite defensive back. Getting thrown into the fire last season will serve him well as he accumulated a truckload full of experience both good and bad. He will also be looked upon to be a major component in shutting down elite receivers now that he is one of the more experienced corners on the team.
2020 NFL Draft Projection
Surtain II has all of the tools that great Alabama corners have had in the past, along with solid measurables and great big game experience. The fact that he is only going into his sophomore season should be extremely exciting for fans, and terrifying for opponents. If Surtain II is able to round out some of the rough edges in his game, he will surely be talked about as one of the best corners in the country. You even hear his name being called a couple of times around award season.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77.