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Nick Ruffin makes the right move in Auburn's defense
Oct. 14, 2014

Auburn's Nick Ruffin takes down Tyler Lockett at Kansas State

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Freshman Nick Ruffin came to Auburn to play cornerback, worked out as a cornerback in the summer, got a new job in August.

Meet Nick Ruffin, one of the players who plays the Star safety/linebacker position in Ellis Johnson's defense.

"I was more than happy to accommodate them, anything that they needed," Ruffin said Tuesday. "Anything that would have assisted in making us a better team, I was happy to do it."

Ruffin's immediate good work allowed Johnson to move Justin Garrett from backup Star to linebacker. It is Ruffin who backs up Robenson Therezie now, but Ruffin gets his chances in a defense that is not afraid to substitute. 

Even Ruffin said he's a little surprised he's played so quickly.

"Originally I just wanted to come in and be more of a student, learn under Cadillac Therezie and Justin Garrett," he said. "That was really my main goal, was to learn as much as I could and if playing time presented itself, I would definitely do everything I could and play as hard as I could. But, originally, I just wanted to learn the position."

The 6-foot, 174-pound Ruffin is one of 23 players who have appeared in their first Auburn game this season. A lot of those young players, and the redshirt freshmen, are getting extra work during this bye week.

Or welcome to big-time college football.

"Every guy comes in as a true freshman and wants to be the best, Freshman All-American," Ruffin said. "I think when you have guys that have that mentality when they come in, they already understand what they’re getting themselves into and it’s not anything they didn’t expect for themselves."

Ruffin was a star cornerback at St. Pius X High School in Atlanta, and his signing day bio touted him as a "defender with numerous skills and leadership capabilities." Those leadership capabilities seemed to come through with his easy manner dealing with the media Tuesday.

On the field, Ruffin said, "the toughest transition has definitely been the physicality."

"As a corner, you're more of a cover guy. You're dealing with guys more so your size. Now, you're dealing with linemen, tight ends. So really just the physicality, learning to get off blocks and just being physical.

"Coming out of high school, you're typically bigger than most kids. So dealing with guys who are 6-5, 6-6, or tackles who are 300-something pounds or running backs who are 230 pounds, is definitely a big transition."

Maybe not so great a transition.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd probably say about an 8. I've definitely adjusted well. And I've really focused on that in practice. So I'm getting comfortable day by day, and I'm just working on getting better."

Ruffin was asked if moving Garrett to linebacker so he could play Star showed trust in his abilities. Ruffin modestly said he didn't know if it was trust, but "we're just trying to create as much depth as we possibly can in all areas. With Justin moving, that creates more depth in the linebacking corps. With me being behind Therezie we still have that depth at Star.

"I don't take it as they trust me. I hope they do, and I'm sure I'm trying to earn that trust day by day. But I think it's just a matter of us getting as much depth in our linebacking corps and our defense in general."

Ruffin, a Star defender, is now usually assigned to cover slot receivers, not the wideouts. He gotten help from Therezie.

"He’s been amazing from Day One. He's worked on my footwork. He worked on how I get off blocking, the techniques that we use here as opposed to the things I had a bad tendency to do prior to. He’s really been a big brother to me in a lot of senses. Not just on the field but off the field, I owe lot of the success in a lot of what I do now to him."

Ruffin was told Ellis has compared him to Therezie.

"If he thinks so, then I’m more than happy to accept that compliment," Ruffin said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: 



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