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UA’s Patrick Surtain ready for new role, talks Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle

Patrick Surtain II stares in the backfield
Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Even as a sophomore, Patrick Surtain II speaks as if he’s a fifth-year senior. 

After a strong rookie season, where he won Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-American honors, the native Floridian is maturing and ready to bring his game up higher. 

Despite being a lockdown defender for much of 2018, Ceedee Lamb of Oklahoma got the better of the five-star in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

For Surtain, it was his initiation to college football and it served as his first notice to take things seriously.

He battled much adversity, but Surtain told reporters on Monday it was the matchup versus the Sooners that forced him to not take film study for granted.

RELATED: Alabama freshmen Evan Neal, DJ Dale winning over teammates

According to cornerback Trevon Diggs, Surtain knows it all now. 

“I have seen Pat grow tremendously,” Diggs said. 

“He has tremendous ability and last year he was just finding his way, but now he knows plays, he knows calls, he knows adjustments, he knows offenses and he knows how to re-route receivers.” 

It is not easy to step into a Nick Saban-coached defensive backfield and start as a freshman; however, Surtain followed the footsteps of great players before him. He had 37 tackles, seven breakups and one interception through 15 games.

In what he saw from the future first-round pick, Diggs said Surtain has “a lot of heart” and believes he has a great career ahead of him. 

He operates as an outside cornerback, but Surtain has accepted the chance at learning the “star” role in Alabama’s nickel defense.

Former standouts such as Minkah Fitzpatrick and current players like Shyheim Carter had to anchor that position as it comes with huge responsibilities.  

A bigger body at 203 pounds, Surtain has to defend some of the smartest players and route runners in the slot.

Three aspects he’s worked on to prepare himself were improving his leadership, sharpening his mental skills and become well acquainted with the playbook. 

It is still a working progress for him, but Diggs said Surtain is better than him at star. 

Facing an elite talent like Jaylen Waddle in practice helps. 

“Jaylen Waddle is a great player, so I have to bring my A game,” Surtain said. 

“I expect his best effort and he expects my best effort.” 

When it comes down to defending the explosive Texan, Surtain said it comes down to recognizing the down and distance and the routes that Waddle likes to run. 

“You have to know what’s coming before it happens,” Surtain said. 

Kyler Murray — former Oklahoma quarterback — got Surtain once, but the second-year starter will be much better this year. The main reason for this thought is having to compete against Tua Tagovailoa for another season. A consensus All-American and Heisman finalist in 2018, the native Hawaiian and returning junior at quarterback keeps Surtain on his toes at all times. 

National media hails Trevor Lawrence of Clemson as the best signal-caller in college football, but the son of an NFL legend thinks otherwise. 

“Tua Tagovailoa is the best quarterback in the nation,” Surtain said. 

“I prepare well going against Tua. Facing him every day helps me and the secondary get better.” 

Surtain has lined up at either right corner or star in fall practice. 

With him helping the younger players and getting wisdom from Trevon Diggs and Shyheim Carter, he will be more than ready to victimize quarterbacks.  

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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