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“The thing that we want to do more this year is take the ball away:” New FSU defensive backs coach Patrick Surtain Sr. ready to elevate play

From Miami to Tallahassee, Patrick Surtain shares his vision for the secondary

New defensive backs coach and former Miami Dolphins assistant Patrick Surtain Sr. met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since being hired earlier in January as Florida State continues to wrap up its newcomer media availability.

Surtain, who also was head coach at American Heritage High School in Plantation for six seasons and won three state championships there, is set to replace now-Arkansas Razorback co-defensive coordinator Marcus Woodson.

After spending a year with the Dolphins and a six at a very prestigious high school, Surtain said that the allure of being more hands-on and developing players, along with being close to his home in Miami, FL were some of the reasons he ultimately chose FSU. “In any profession, your goal is to move up, and I had a really good run at the high school level, and I wanted to challenge myself more. When the Dolphins called, I thought it was a great opportunity. It was at home. I didn’t have to uproot the family; it was the opportunity to learn at the highest level.” He said. “from there, coach Norvell gave me the call, and at the pro level, it wasn’t as intimate. When I got the call from coach Norvell, I thought about it, but ultimately I decided (on FSU) because it gave me more of a high school feel so I can be more hands-on with the guys.”

Although coaching at Florida State (and the college level in general) is new to him, Surtain had close ties to the program and staff dating back to when he was a player. “Randy Shannon actually coached me with the Dolphins; that's how old Randy is.” He laughed. He also faced off against some of the Seminole greats in 1996 as a player in Doak Campbell when he played in the secondary at the University of Southern Mississippi.

But with the past behind him and new horizons ahead, his main goal at FSU, like the rest of the staff, is to bring the Florida State Seminoles back to their standard of success and focus on growth and maturity. “I think the thing that we want to do more this year is to take the ball away. I’ve been around football for a long time, and I think if you’re able to win the turnover battle, you have a chance of winning almost 85% of your games.” He said. “even though we held teams to 165 passing yards per game (last season), I think the next step is to be able to take the ball away and give our explosive offense the ball repeatedly”

Surtain seemed to have a vision that aligned with Norvell’s in the sense that their goal is success, and that it starts with recruiting. “If we’re going to get FSU back to where it needs to be, we are gonna have to get the best players across the country no matter where they are.” He said. “I’m looking for guys who are doing things similar to what we’re doing at this level. We're going to be doing a lot of press coverage. I’m looking for guys who play press man... There’s a lot of talent out there; we just gotta turn over every leaf to go find them, and I’m willing to do that.”

And in that vision, he was on the road, hitting the ground running the second day after the ink on his contract was dry. On the trail and across the country, Surtain plans on using his pedigree and the relationships he’s built to give him a leg up in the recruiting hotbed of south Florida.

“I know all the kids. I know all the coaches. I think those kids down there respect what I’ve done in the past, and I think they see that Florida State is on the up and up, and when college football was at its best, Florida State was at its best,” adding that, “guys see the movement that coach Norvell has started... I think they want to be a part of that.”

Surtain repeatedly mentioned throughout his interview that the influence and development of young men, not just as players but as adults is crucial. On the field, he said each player is different in their skill set.

“I think you gotta treat every individual separately; some guys may do things better than other guys, so that's when the coaching aspect comes into part. You gotta figure out what each individual guy does best and hone those skills. The deficiencies they have, you have to work on them and fit them into our team concept.”

Going more in-depth, Surtain talks about his vision, relationships, why he chose to coach at FSU, and more in his full interview below.