ATLANTA, Ga. | St. Pius X School (Ga.) cornerback Nicholas Ruffin is busy preparing for his senior season and hoping to return to the state title game for the second straight season.
Ruffin, a 6-foot, 175-pound Auburn commitment, is showcasing his skills at free safety and slot receiver this fall for the Golden Lions, while Auburn projects Ruffin at cornerback on the next level. Either way, Ruffin's versatility will be on display this fall in the Atlanta-area.
AuburnSports.com caught up with Ruffin during training camp to get exclusive practice highlights, photos and spoke with Ruffin about expectations entering his season, his recruitment and more.
RUFFIN ON ENTERING HIS SENIOR SEASON: "It's going great. I've picked up 12-15 pounds and my 40 has dropped to a 4.41. I'm getting more acquainted with my teammates. It's a surreal feeling -- it feels like just yesterday I was just a freshman coming in. I'm happy about it, but it's a bitter-sweet feeling. I'm not really looking forward to it, but I am."
ON BEING A LEADER: "Last year was behind the scenes leadership, but this year is more upfront. I'm looking to take control of the team. This year is the year for me to take the reigns."
ON PLAYING OFFENSE AND DEFENSE THIS FALL: "On offense, I'm playing wing back and the slot, trying to create match-up problems on defense putting me against other linebackers. On defense, I'll be playing free safety, giving me the opportunity to roam free and make plays and cover more ground.
ON HOW PLAYING OFFENSE HELPS ON DEFENSE: "It helps to have an idea of the mindset -- as a slot I have the mindset of a receiver and as a wing back, as a tailback you learn the mindset of other tailbacks and getting as many yards as you can. It helps me in that aspect.
ON THE LATEST WITH HIS RECRUITMENT: "It's definitely died down a great deal which I'm happy about it. There's still schools recruiting me, I get mail frequently. I call Coach (Dameyune) Craig at least once a week, if not twice. I try and call Coach (Melvin) Smith and Coach (Charlie) Harbison once a week also. Occasionally it's football, but he usually gives me recruits to look at. For the most part, it's checking up on me and making sure I keep my head straight.
ON THE TIGERS' 2014 CLASS: "I'm excited about it. We have a great group of athletes as well as great young men.That's part of it, recruiting guys who are athletes and great young men who builds the team up. That's a championship caliber team. I'm excited.
ON VISIT PLANS THIS FALL: "I'm only taking two. One to Georgia, I made a promise to that coaching staff. I'll be at the LSU game and get that out of the way early in the season, then it will be strictly Auburn. I'll definitely be at the Georgia-Auburn game, I'll be at at least six games, and work my way up to some practices.
ON EXPECTATIONS FOR AUBURN'S SEASON AND WHAT THE TIGERS ARE GETTING IN RUFFIN AS A PLAYER-PERSON: "Expect the unexpected. It's a high-paced offense, even the defense, expect the unexpected. The coaches, the dedication of the players is unlike anything I've seen in college. Expect the unexpected, to go looking for what you saw last year. I'm expecting a great season at Auburn. As far as what you're getting from me, hard worker, doesn't take no for an answer and I don't back down from a challenge. That's what you'll get."
COACH'S TAKE: "Mentally is what's impressed me the most. Switching from corner to safety isn't an easy thing to do and he transitioned well. That versatility will help him in college. He's always first in line, does things the right way and gets after it. Expectations are for him to quarterback the defense from the safety spot and echo the calls. From there, great things are going to happen. He's set in his head he wants to learn and be a sponge, whether it's safety or corner. Much of his projection will depend on how much weight he puts on -- I'd think with his mentality that the safety spot could fit him well. He's a great tackler, he's got a great read for the ball. He's got great height for a corner, but that's the lure of Nick. He can do both." - St. Pius X School secondary coach Jason Tester