After nine seasons at rival Miles College, Reginald Ruffin is back at Tuskegee University.
“There are still a lot of memories and a lot of tradition, a lot of history at Tuskegee,” Ruffin said. “Some things have changed, of course, coming back as athletic director and head football coach.”
The top Golden Tiger points out several of those changes that are in the works. They include a new locker room, a new player lounge, a new athletic training room, new meeting space, team meeting rooms and new turf for the football stadium.
Ruffin returns to Tuskegee after completing one of the most successful decades in Golden Bears history. In nine seasons, he led Miles to four Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and an additional SIAC championship game appearance. Ruffin was the league’s coach of the year three times in that span.
Alabama NewsCenter is taking a look at the upcoming college football season and today the focus is on Tuskegee.
Alabama NewsCenter: What are the prospects for this season?
Reginald Ruffin: The guys are pretty much understanding that it’s discipline that’s gonna be the key for us to start heading that way to success. The lack thereof can continue to keep you on the bottom of the tier. We talk about discipline, how we keep the locker rooms clean and that we clean it up after we finish practicing and how we pick up in the cafeteria. Our kids are really buying into the standard. We want to talk about the standard, the Tuskegee standard. They know how to practice hard. They are learning the standard and learning to do things the right way. I am excited. We didn’t have very many numbers this spring; we got a lot of newcomers that we brought in. We only had 47 guys go through spring ball. We brought 82 newcomers to the program and the newcomers outweigh the returning guys. There’s gotta be some camaraderie. There’s gotta be some togetherness, cohesiveness. That’s what we’ve been working since camp, guys working together and learning to practice with each other, to be brothers and do things for us to start to get back to being on top.
ANC: What is the strength of this year’s team?
Ruffin: I think the strength is going to be our front, offensive line and defensive line. They returned so many guys who have a lot of experience and played a lot. We are inexperienced in a lot of positions in terms of receivers, in terms of defensive backs and linebackers. A lot of new faces and newcomers in those positions, and also quarterback, the trigger man. We do have the (Alabama State University) transfer in Ryan Nettles, who has done a great job. Bryce Williams is doing an awesome job and then we have freshman Christon Lane. Those guys are all battling for the quarterback position. With the running backs, of course, we still have Taurean Taylor with the addition of Miles’ leading rusher from last year, Donte Edwards. Donte has transferred to Tuskegee and is playing here his senior year. DeAndre Harvey graduated from Miles and came in and solidified our H-back and tight end position.
ANC: Who are your team’s standouts?
Ruffin: Josh McNeal was a two-year starter at Miles College and he transferred here on the defensive line. He’s really bringing a lot of intensity, what we did and how we did it. These guys are kind of following in his footsteps. Davir Hamilton, a starting defensive end last year for Tuskegee, really has emerged as our captain, our leader. Rodricus Magee is at the receiver position for us, leading that group. DeAndre Harvey is coming in and being a part of what we established previously at Miles. He’s done everything we asked. He graduated and wanted to go to grad school, wanted to play this last year. Having him on that offensive side of the ball, helping out with the line, tight ends and the H-backs with blocking schemes and all of that. Ryan Nettles has really emerged; he transferred from Alabama State at quarterback. He’s really emerged as our leader at quarterback. They’re battling, but he’s emerged as a leader.
ANC: What game(s) do your fans have circled on your schedule?
Ruffin: The Red Tails Classic is real big for our institution. It’s an ESPNU game on Sunday. Any time you talk about the Tuskegee Airmen – that’s affiliated with Tuskegee because it started here – to have an opportunity to have a game the magnitude of the Boeing Red Tails Classic, our fans are really excited about that first game, because we didn’t have in-person games. Nobody was allowed to attend the games last year, so this is a real first year coming back since the ’19 season where fans can attend the game. We’re very excited about that. Everybody’s got that Fort Valley game circled. And I always tell people it’s always the first game. It’s never looking ahead. Even though I know our fans are very excited, and I want to have the opportunity to play Clark Atlanta because of Coach (Willie) Slater being the former coach at Tuskegee and the new coach at Clark Atlanta. And of course, having the matchup with Miles, the in-state rivalry of Miles and Tuskegee.
ANC: What is your lingering question?
Ruffin: The biggest thing is, can we play together? Can we stay healthy? Can we really learn how to be winners? A winning mentality and a losing mentality and a not-so-winning mentality go hand in hand. We have to change the mindset and change the culture. Can we sustain success? We do have to have an opportunity to go 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. Can we, say, sustain the success of being a good football program and be humble? I just want us to be a disciplined football team, a fundamentally sound football team.
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 and Faulkner University, and look for a new preview each weekday.