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Patrick Surtain II taking the reins of Alabama football's new secondary

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports
Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) recovers a fumble during the first half of Alabama's final home game of the year against Western Carolina Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The dynamic changed quickly on Patrick Surtain II. When a message needed reinforcing this time last year, there was a proven starter not that far away, be it Trevon Diggs or Xavier McKinney, to deliver the message, to set an expectation.

Now, there’s no one left to do it but Surtain.

Alabama’s star cornerback, its lone returning starter in the secondary, said he has embraced the leadership role he had no choice but to take.

“I know I have to play a big role in that leadership role, provide the guys and give them expectations,” Surtain said. “Come on the field every day and lead those guys to be that dude they can look to, to play ball.”

It’s a different style of preparation for Surtain. In the past, he could simply focus on making himself better as a player — which he did well, tying for the team lead with eight pass breakups and adding two interceptions last season. Only 12 SEC defensive backs had more than eight pass breakups last season, and he was a big part of a secondary that lifted UA to a tied for third finish nationally in yards per attempt allowed.

But now, he has more than his own play to manage.

“You have to expect more from yourself. You have to come out with the right demeanor and leading those guys,” Surtain said. “I got to speak up more and deliver my message more. I’m living up to that expectation and I’m very excited about it.”

Luckily for Surtain, he is not leading a secondary that is entirely green. Projected starting safety Jordan Battle was the dime package deep safety last year, putting him on the field for more snaps than any non-starter; cornerback Josh Jobe started the Citrus Bowl in Diggs’ absence.

Surtain said those players have been around long enough to know what to expect. Surtain also knows what to expect of himself.

“I think the big thing in this conference and within this defense, we need to have two corners that can lock it down and I think that’s something that Patrick and Josh should be able to do for us and they’ve done well up to this point,” UA defensive coordinator Pete Golding said.

Surtain did not shy away: “I feel like I can live up to that expectation.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson