SPX Alumni - Nick Ruffin in the Aubrun news
August 31st, 2014
AUBURN, Alabama -- With Robenson Therezie unlikely to play against Arkansas, Auburn has faced a potential problem finding a backup to Justin Garrett at the Star.
A freshman might be the answer.
Freshman Nick Ruffin was listed as Garrett's backup on the Tigers' first official depth chart, a big move for the product from St. Pius X in the Atlanta area.
"Nick has really stood out and done an outstanding job on the defensive side," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "We've had a lot of scrimmages with the young guys emphasis, and he stood out and did a very good job in all of those."
Ruffin, listed at 6-foot, 174 pounds on the official roster, fits more of the Therezie role as a former cornerback playing the position.
A year ago, with Therezie as his only option at the Star, Johnson tailored the role to play more like a nickel cornerback than a linebacker, which is what the position will likely require with Garrett, a former linebacker, manning the role.
For that reason, Ruffin may not see much action against Arkansas, even if Garrett were to suffer an injury.
A power-running team that likes to use two tight end sets and power formations with multiple fullbacks, the Razorbacks will test the Tigers' defense on the ground first.
Ruffin, at the moment, is better suited to defending the pass, and Auburn has also worked 6-foot-1, 196-pound sophomore T.J. Davis in the role. A cornerback at St. Pius, Ruffin is still learning how to shed blocks near the line of scrimmage.
"The biggest thing he's had to improve on right now is the big receivers stock-blocking him out in space, or coming off the edge and having to take on a running back on a blitz or an outside run play when a big blocker gets out on the edge," Johnson said. "That's the thing he has to get better at, which Therezie did too."
That could mean an alternate plan at the backup Star position against the Razorbacks.
Both Johnson and Malzahn have hinted that the Tigers have worked some natural linebackers at the Star in recent weeks, potentially to combat Arkansas' heavy sets.
But Ruffin's development will come in handy when Auburn takes on spread offenses as the season progresses.
"He's got a lot of the same skills that Therezie has," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "He's kind of got (defensive back) skill sets, and he's looked very comfortable out there.
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