After a very un-Saban-like year, Alabama is looking to bounce back and return to the college football playoffs. They are going to have to do it without some key players on both sides of the ball. Trevon Diggs was one of the starting cornerbacks for the Crimson Tide last season who is now in the NFL. As he has moved on to the next level, Patrick Surtain II is going to have to fill his shoes as the next man up in Saban’s system.
Following his freshman season, Patrick Surtain II was named to the Freshman All-American team by The Athletic. On top of that, he was also named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the conference’s coaches. Surtain ended last season as an honorable mention All-American by Pro Football Focus.
Surtain measures 6-2 and weighs 203 pounds. That’s above average in both categories for an NFL corner, but he doesn’t let his size slow him down. He uses his size and physicality to his advantage while covering the top receivers in college football.
Throughout his college career, Patrick Surtain II has experience playing in the slot, on the outside, as well as safety from time to time. Cornerback is his natural position, but he does display some natural Safety traits.
If you want to watch Surtain at his best, make sure you pay attention when he’s in press-man coverage while playing on the outside. Right away, he makes sure to get at least one hand on his receiver to jam him at the line of scrimmage and throw him off his route just a little bit. This gives Surtain the advantage and allows him to be prepared for his receiver’s next move.
While in coverage, he recognizes routes and mirrors the moves of the receiver he is responsible for. Surtain smoothly transitions from backpedaling to running with his receiver down the field. When playing on the outside, he puts his high football IQ to work. He uses the sideline to his advantage as an extra defender to force a tight window for the quarterback to fit the ball into. Surtain also has excellent reaction time with his hands. He may not have the most natural hands to go up and make interceptions, but while running step for step with his receiver he does get his head around just in time to break-up the pass.
When Surtain is in either off-man or zone coverage, he tends to give himself an extra cushion between himself and his receiver to ensure that he doesn’t get beat deep. This, of course, leaves room for underneath or check-down routes, but he is an effective tackler with the proper technique who can limit the number of positive yards gained.
Although he seemed to be racking up stats and producing every game, he was not the most physically productive player on the Alabama squad. Surtain finished the season in fourth for solo tackles and eighth for total tackles. The main reason for this is that he is not very enthusiastic when it comes to the run game. He tends to shy away from the mess around the line of scrimmage and his body language says he does not want to be involved.
On top of improving his willingness to get involved in the run game, Surtain also needs to improve his slot coverage skills. He has been asked to play slot a number of times under Nick Saban, but he is not as effective as he is while playing on the outside. He is physical enough to cover tight ends that spread out, but not fast enough to keep up with smaller, faster receivers.
Will he be able to tighten up his coverage in off-man and zone? Can he improve his speed and agility for the upcoming season? These are things to watch for as the Crimson Tide are looking to fill starting roles as they lost five defensive players to the 2020 NFL draft. With Trevon Diggs out as Alabama’s top corner, Surtain cannot get complacent when looking to finish his collegiate career with the Crimson Tide.