Alabama sophomore defensive back Patrick Surtain II may have more coaches than any other player in college football.
As someone who has practiced at both cornerback and the "star" position, Surtain has worked under Crimson Tide cornerbacks coach Karl Scott and safeties coach Charles Kelly. Pete Golding is Alabama's first-year defensive coordinator, and head coach Nick Saban always has been one to drift to the defensive backs during practices.
Yet the closest instructor to Surtain is his father, who played in the NFL for more than a decade with the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.
"My dad talks to me a lot before every game," Surtain said this week in a news conference. "We talk the night before, and he will tell me to stay confident, remain humble and believe in your technique. He tells me to believe what's coming before it happens."
Alabama practiced for two hours in full pads Tuesday, which marked the Crimson Tide's final workout before Wednesday's start to the fall semester.
The elder Surtain earned three consecutive Pro Bowl invitations with the Dolphins from 2002 to 2004 and coached his son at American Heritage High in Plantation, Florida. That coaching, in addition to the athletic lineage, resulted in the younger Surtain developing into the No. 1 cornerback nationally in the 2018 signing class and a top-10 prospect overall.
Surtain helped his father win two straight 5A state titles before committing to Alabama over Florida State and LSU.
The learning curve in Tuscaloosa would not be a lengthy one, as Surtain broke into the starting lineup in the fourth game last season against Texas A&M inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide struggled early defensively against the Aggies, allowing a 99-yard touchdown drive during the first quarter, but stiffened and emptied the benches late in the third quarter with a 45-16 lead in an eventual 45-23 win.
"There wasn't that much pressure," Surtain said of his starting debut. "I just felt it was my time to step up and give my contributions to the team."
Surtain collected three tackles, an interception and a pass breakup against Texas A&M, and he would start 11 more contests for the Crimson Tide. There were memories to savor, such as helping hold Missouri's Drew Lock to 142 passing yards and helping Alabama post consecutive shutouts of LSU and Mississippi State, but there were plenty of teaching moments as well.
Alabama surrendered 1,407 yards in its final three games against Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl national semifinal and Clemson in the title game of the four-team playoff. Surtain earned Freshman All-America honors, finishing with 37 tackles and seven pass breakups, but he is eager to help a more veteran secondary atone for how last season ended.
"Just knowing what happens before the play is where I think I've made the most improvement," Surtain said. "I also think I took watching film for granted, and now I'm more into that."
Alabama freshman inside linebacker Christian Harris, who assumed a first-team role earlier this month when senior Joshua McMillon suffered a knee injury, was wearing a brace on his left knee Tuesday and was not practicing during the period open to the media. Fellow freshman Shane Lee replaced Harris and was working alongside junior Dylan Moses.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.