By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Sam Shade’s most recent coaching experience was leading the Pinson Valley Indians. But the former Alabama defensive standout brings college experience with him into his first season leading the Miles College Golden Bears.
“The one thing I think some people don’t remember is that I actually coached college football for nine years as an assistant,” Shade said. “During that time, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Obviously, I wasn’t in the head role, but I was able to work for some really good head coaches.”
Miles opens Sept. 3 at Alabama State.
“I feel it was really a good experience for me because I was on his first staff there,” the new head coach said. “I had a chance to go in on that staff and take over a program and go through the offseason and all the things that you go through. I feel like that was really big for me in moving into this role.”
Alabama NewsCenter is taking a look at the upcoming college football season. Today, the focus is on Miles, where Shade is succeeding Reginald Ruffin, who left for Tuskegee University.
Alabama NewsCenter: What are the prospects for this season?
Sam Shade: Well, we talked about myself, my coaching staff establishing the culture that we want to establish at Miles and basically going out and playing a style of football that we want to play. Just establishing our mark. Just establishing the way we want to do things, the way we want our players to play this first season.
ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?
Shade: That’s a good question. As a staff right now, we feel like our offensive line, we feel like that group has a chance to be pretty good. We’ve got a couple up front who are good players. They’ve got some time under their belt. Our center, Tyler Lowery, was all-conference last year and is preseason all-conference. He’s a really good player. I’ve coached different levels of college ball from Division I-AA to FBS ball, and I feel like he’s a guy that could play at some of those different levels. Just watching him this spring and getting him back for camp, he’s definitely one of our leaders on the offensive side of the ball. It’s always good to have that guy at the center position. I feel like that group right now is our top group. But there are some other groups that are pushing and getting better these days.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Shade: Obviously, Tyler (Lowery) is definitely one. Also on that offensive line is Donavon Barden. He’s an offensive tackle for us. He’s a really big kid, 6-8, 300-plus (pound) right tackle. On the defensive side of the ball, there are some guys up front that we’re looking for leadership from, guys such as Roosevelt Thompson. He’s a preseason all-conference guy. We’ve got Cameron Snead, who plays defensive end for us. We’ve got a couple guys in the secondary. Mitchell Smiley is one; he’s played a lot of football at Miles. He’s a safety and Graderius Brown also plays the safety position. He’s been a leader for us from the time I’ve gotten there. We’ve got some young guys that have done some really good things. Jamarius Brown, he’s another defensive back … a kid out of Mobile that’s a really athletic player in the secondary for us. And like I said, he’s a young guy that’s really going to be a good player for us. I’m excited to watch him play this year, along with, up front, Ka’Darrion Jones.
ANC: What game(s) do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Shade: I think if you asked any fan at Miles College, they probably would tell you Tuskegee is the game that the fans talk about. It’s kind of like Alabama-Auburn. I’ve been a part of that rivalry. It’s kind of like the Cowboys and Redskins (now the Commanders). That’s the one people want to know, but that’s our last game of the season. That’s just too far down the road for me to think about. From my experience, you’ve got to take games one at a time.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Shade: That’s a great question. Our quarterback position. We’ve got a competition going on at the quarterback position and it’s pretty interesting. Actually, the team last year played five quarterbacks. Most of it was due to injuries to guys. Out of that group, four of those guys are still at Miles. Right now we’ve got kind of a four-man deal going for that, actually. Even the fifth and sixth guys are capable. When we came out of spring, there were two guys that we felt were at the top. But one of our quarterbacks was not able to go through spring. He’s back. His name is Claude Newell. He’s a local guy from Shades Valley High School. The two quarterbacks that came out of spring on top were Jalen Parker, who’s a Hoover product, and the other one is Jacob Millhouse, a Parker product. They’re all capable guys. We’re gonna play the quarterback that gives us the best chance to win.
Alabama NewsCenter is posting season previews for all 16 college football programs in Alabama. Read previews for Jacksonville State University, the University of North Alabama, Alabama State University, Birmingham-Southern College, Samford University, Faulkner University, Tuskegee University, the University of West Alabama and Troy University, and look for a new preview each weekday.