You’d have to forgive Reginald Ruffin if he didn’t want to wake up after the 2018 football season. His Miles College squad wound up with a dream season, following an 0-5 start with a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
“It was a surprise that we were so young last year and to end up battling, fighting back,” he said. “Our kids grew up so fast. It took us some time to jell as one group, one unit on one accord. Then all the guys came together and started believing it could happen.”
But the Golden Bears aren’t suffering any hangover from their 2018 success.
“We told our kids we definitely want to concentrate on 2019,” Ruffin said. “They’re not wearing their championship rings around. The kids know all of that is behind them. We’re focusing on 2019 and Fort Valley (State), the first game.”
That first game kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 in Fort Valley, Georgia.
Alabama NewsCenter: What is the outlook for this season?
Reginald Ruffin: Our team is still a mixture of sophomores and juniors. We’re playing a heavy Division II schedule. We want to get ourselves in line to win the SIAC championship, make it to the Division II playoffs and see how that goes. Our kids are really motivated about that.
ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?
Ruffin: Any time you have all the returning offensive linemen, all the returning defensive linemen and the returning quarterback, and the returning secondary, you have a chance.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Ruffin: We don’t have to find the guy who’s going to be the triggerman. We’ve pretty much got that guy that’s returning (at quarterback), Daniel Smith. He came back in tremendous shape and is still a great leader out there for our unit. But he’s only going to be as good as the guys around him, especially the offensive line that’s protecting him. In the secondary, we faltered a little bit (last year), but those guys were all freshmen. But (now) they’re a veteran unit; they played a lot of football games. We return all four of the starters on the defensive line (and) all the starters at linebacker, all the starters in the secondary. All of our special team guys are returning. For me, it’s just a blessing to have that many guys returning. We have Austin Stephens, the defensive player of the year in the SIAC. And you have Kendrell Walker in the secondary. He was the leading tackler and preseason all-conference. Leonard Tyree, a wide receiver, is preseason first-team all-conference and is on the Black College Player of the Year Watch List. Aaron Scroggins was our starting center and is first-team all-conference.
ANC: What games do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Ruffin: In order to win them all, you’ve got to win the first one and I think our kids understand that. Our fans circle all of our rival games, especially Tuskegee. That’s the last game of the year, so you can’t overlook the first game for a game down the line.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Ruffin: The biggest thing is getting the younger guys. We know we have the ones (first team) and we have the twos (second team). We have a very talented freshman class we signed. My major concern now is getting the younger guys who are inexperienced and getting them to college speed. My worry is to make sure we’ve got depth. In Division II, you’ve got to be healthy. We’re watching what we do to get the horses to the race and not just run them out where they can’t get to the race.
Download or print a complete schedule of all 15 Alabama college football programs, including Miles, here.