On Saturday during some of the most notable college football games around the country, you may have started to question your age. Seeing the likes of South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn, son of former standout New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn, and Asante Samuel Jr., the son of former All-Pro and New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, on the field were the main culprits behind that.
Another former standout NFL player’s son’s name may ring a bell as Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II faced his biggest test of the year. With a red hot Georgia team entering Tuscaloosa, many evaluators wanted to see how he would manage against one of the Crimson Tide’s biggest threats to a national title run.
He had an inconsistent sophomore year as he allowed 20 catches on 33 catchable targets into his coverage, but the underlying traits and tools were always present with the younger Surtain. The pedigree and DNA were present, but the light routinely flickered and failed to completely cut on through two seasons. A highly touted 5-star recruit, the hype entering the facility was obviously through the roof. He was expected to be a shutdown option from Day 1, but it wasn’t always apparent.
In terms of verbiage, technique, and physical asking, there are few position-team fits that are more demanding. It was obvious that Surtain fell victim to being swarmed a bit by the elements. Persevering and now being one of the leaders of the Tide’s defense, he’s off to a standout junior season.
Through the first four games, he’s managed to only allow five catches (14 targets) for 43 yards. Yet to record an interception this season, he has collected three passes defensed as teams have remained hesitant with throwing into his direction–the definition of a player taking away one side of the field.
Coming into summer scouting, the biggest questions that I had about Surtain was his fluidness at the line of scrimmage, as he often can be a guesser, and his deep speed, as he allows some receivers to disengage from his coverage the further they get down the field. Watching his progress through four games, he’s begun to come into his own and is now widely seen as a potential top-15 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft if he opts to declare.
Size: 6-foot-2, 203, Junior
Surtain II has the height and frame that scouts dream of when creating their ideal cornerback prospect from scratch, but the best part about his game is his patience followed up by the reactionary quickness. Surtain II understands and has nearly perfected the fine line of knowing when to react, but also knowing when not to overreact to the movements of wideouts. Not asked to get hands on wideouts frequently at the line, he uses his hips and short, choppy steps to mirror receivers during the opening moments of reps. With well above average short area quickness, he has the ability to keep his focus on proper body areas to flip his hips and react accordingly in order to remain sticky with targets.
It's a trait that has been developed over time, but Surtain II is sneaky with knowing when and how to get hands on receivers within route stems, but also not being overaggressive to attract the attention of officials. His smarts with understanding which levels of physicality will draw flags, but also being effective enough to cause frustration and disruption is the next level of savvy that his game has tapped into.
Another area that's noticeable in the Alabama junior corner’s game is wherewithal of playing through the catch point. While in coverage, Surtain II seems to always find ways to make a play on the ball or have an impact on the process of it. Routinely playing through the hands of wideouts, he’s able to break up passes at the last second after it initially seemed that receivers were able to haul it in. Many of his pass break ups are him unraveling the ball directly following the wideout being exposed to the ball. Ball skills is an added incentive with corners, but it's seen as one that's a major plus as Surtain II is a natural once the ball is in the air and arrives at the moment of truth.
Surtain II has the short area, close distance foot quickness, and speed in order to turn and run from the short to intermediate areas of the field, but separation is allowed once entering the deeper portions. In a straight line, the longer routes had time to develop, the more receivers were able to create distances from him further down the field. Surtain II is sufficient with sticking to receivers during the early portions of routes, which forces many throwers to look away, but even if the ball isn’t thrown into his coverage, it’s noticeable that receivers gain strides on him downfield over time. Deep speed is one of the biggest question marks surrounding his game as he isn't tested in those portions of the field often due to his presence and teams having respect for his game, but when passes have been thrown in those areas, the separation has been evident even if incomplete.
He's made strides thus far through the beginning stages of his junior season, but there's somewhat of hot-cold interest as a tackler. He's unafraid with showing up in run support, but the excitement notches while doing so have lots of high and low variances. He’ll do it once he gets in no man’s land or if targets are running directly into his vicinity. Surtain II isn’t afraid of contact by any stretch of the imagination, but he won’t go out of his way in order to become involved in it. An average tackler, he shows correct ways in order to do so, but his consistency and interest in doing so remains inconsistent. Tackling isn't exactly near the top of the list of required traits, but it is one that some enjoy seeing if it's included in the resume of prospects.