When it comes to preparing for its upcoming College Football Playoff Semifinal matchup against No. 1 Alabama, there is one name that was mentioned more than others by players of No. 4 Notre Dame's offense:
Crimson Tide junior defensive back Patrick Surtain II.
Surtain has had a solid season as the leader of Alabama's secondary. Second on the team in broken-up passes with 10, Surtain has provided solid leadership and communication between the defensive backfield and the other units of the defense — something that was missing from the team last season.
When asked about Surtain, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book was quick to compliment the season that he has had in 2020.
"Yes, he's really good," Book said. "No doubt about that. Just means you've got to be on time. If you're late, he's going to take it. And he's a really good corner who is going to play a lot of football for a lot of years in the future. So you've got to be on time. You've got to be confident that you made the right read, the right choice. And then at the end of the day, you've got to trust your receivers to go out and help you out. And that's really what it's about. You can't really be lackadaisical, and you can't be late. And you don't want to find that out the hard way.
"But we know he's there. We know how he plays. We studied a lot of film on him. So it's going to be really good. I'm not saying you can't throw the ball there ever. But he's just a really good corner. No doubt about that. It's about being on time. Especially from my perspective as a quarterback."
Surtain is currently 10th on the Alabama defense in tackles with 32. He also has both an interception and a fumble recovery this season to accompany his 10 passes broken up. If the ball is thrown into the Alabama secondary, there's a small chance that Surtain is already there — or he will be there very soon.
According to Notre Dame wide receiver Ben Skowronek, Surtains skills on the gridiron begin with his feet.
"I think it starts with his feet," Skowronek said. "He has really good feet, able to mirror routes. But when you combine that with his length and over athleticism, that's going to make him a top cornerback prospect for the upcoming NFL draft. He has all the tangibles. I'm excited to go out there on Friday and compete against him."
At the end of the day, Skowronek said that he and his offense will have to bring its A game if it wants to be able to hang with Surtain and the Alabama defense.
"Just the first thing that pops out on film is their team speed," Skowronek said. "They have a lot of team speed on defense, being one of the top defenses year in, year out in the SEC, you're going to expect that. But obviously their secondary, led by Patrick Surtain. He's a heck of a football player. He'll be drafted pretty high in the next draft. I'm excited for the opportunity to line up against them. But overall, they're a really good defense. We're going to have to bring our A game on Friday."