By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Miles College football coach Reginald Ruffin is wearing a second hat these days after President George French Jr. named him the school’s director of athletics.
“I’m pulling those double duties right now,” Ruffin said. “Everybody’s not going to coach forever, and the president felt like I had a lot of leadership when it came to administrative-type stuff. He said, ‘I think it’s time for me to make that transition for you to that role.’”
Alabama NewsCenter is taking a tour of college football programs in the state as a precursor to the fast-approaching season. Next up is Miles College.
French gave Ruffin his first shot at being a college head football coach when they were both at Tuskegee University. Now he’s made him an AD while keeping Ruffin as the man in charge of the Golden Bears football program, which went 6-4 last season.
The 2017 season was the continuation of a difficult time for Ruffin and Miles. After Ruffin lost his wife to cancer, defensive line coach Tony Ogelsby lost his battle to that disease as well. And another assistant coach’s child died.
Ruffin was pleased with the resilience of his players to battle back and get into contention to play for the Western Division title in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?
Reginald Ruffin: I’m very excited to have our entire offense back. We lost two offensive linemen and we lost one receiver, but everyone else is back. It’s great to be in a situation where all three or four quarterbacks are back, plus a couple of transfers. I’m looking for our offense to really take command. Defensively, I’m looking forward because we were so young last year. You can tell those guys are comfortable out there. They’re veterans. We return eight starters on defense.
ANC: What is your team’s strength?
Ruffin: It should be offense because there are so many returners on that side of the ball. It’s not a learning curve that’s going to hamper those guys from being successful. Those guys have been in the program three and four years. Defensively, we’ll be sophomores and juniors this year, so they’ll be second- and third-year players.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Ruffin: We’ve got to solidify our quarterbacks, and that’s a race that nobody has been given that peg. Both of those guys competed this spring (and) did a great job. Li’Jon Cordier started out last year as our quarterback until he got hurt, and then Joseph Cambridge. Those guys are one and two for the starting job, and also Sidney Wilson, and Parker High School alum Tommy Neely. And when you have a running back like Justin Hardy — if he can stay healthy, man, he did a lot of good things last year … led the conference in rushing and touchdowns. He’s been training hard all summer, but he’s being tested, too, by Santee Marshall, a true freshman who backed him up. On the offensive line, you’ve got Roger Womack, a Carver High School alum here in Birmingham, and Aaron Scroggins from Bessemer Academy. Those guys were true freshmen starting on the offensive line last year. They just have to grow up.
ANC: What game do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Ruffin: It’s always that first game. Plus, we’re playing an FCS school – Alabama A&M, an in-state rival. It’s the Louis Crews Classic, so that’s a big classic for them. The second game is against West Alabama, which is probably ranked in the top 10 in Division II. They won the Gulf South Conference last year. That’s a tough matchup for us. We’ve got a tough conference schedule; it won’t be easy. We’re in a gauntlet in the first couple of games. Of course, all our fans are waiting for the last game on the schedule, which is Tuskegee. We have played for the Western Division (SIAC) title every year I’ve been here at Miles.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Ruffin: The biggest thing is to see who’s going to solidify that No. 1 position at quarterback. I would like for us to find out that position during (fall) camp and not wait three or four games to find the right triggerman. Offense cannot flourish without the right trigger guy.