Hoover, Ala.--When Ryan Pugh considered all of the dozens of schools that offered him scholarships prior to his senior year he looked at LSU, Clemson and a few others before deciding that Auburn was truly home for him. The son of Auburn parents and growing up a fan of the Tigers, Pugh says that in the end it was always Auburn.
With his decision out of the way Pugh concentrated on his senior year playing at Hoover High. One of the top centers in the country Pugh was pushed into action at left tackle for the Bucs with the starting center back and one of the team's top linemen. Playing well enough to earn Class 6A Linemen of the Year honors, Pugh now gets a chance to play center at last in the recent U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
The week is essentially the last chapter in Pugh's high school career and also the first in his future as a college football player. The teams reported on New Year's Eve in San Antonio and practiced on New Year's Day, forcing Pugh to miss Auburn's game against Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. Only seeing some highlights of the game Pugh says that he saw what he had seen out of the Tigers all season and that's one of the reasons Auburn was the school for him.
"I saw some of the highlights," Pugh says. "They struggled a little bit at first but they got it going. I like what Coach (Tommy) Tuberville said. He said they were a scrappy bunch. They won 11 games this year but if you ask anyone in the country how many games Auburn won this year I don't think anyone would say 11 because their scores are always close. Sometimes that's how your season goes.
"A lot of teams around the country would like to have 11 wins and winning by three points. I think that's a big step for the program to get those kinds of wins. It's a tribute to the coaching staff that does such a great job."
Pugh pancakes a defender during practice this week in San Antonio.
Taking his one and only visit to Auburn this weekend on Jan. 19, Pugh says that he can't wait until he gets on the campus and begins to get ready for his freshman season on the Plains. Currently weighing in the 280-pound range, Pugh says that Auburn wants him to report at less than 280 and in good shape to ensure the extra weight will be added properly.
That shouldn't be a problem for Pugh as he is currently rock solid under the guidance of his father Tony Pugh as he gets back into wrestling season after playing in the All-Star game. Tony says that he fully expects his son to be one of the strongest freshmen on Auburn's team when he arrives and that Ryan will likely be bench pressing in the neighborhood of 400 pounds when he gets to Auburn.
His strength, size, and knowledge of the game should allow Pugh to have a chance to play right away for the Tigers because of the loss of Joe Cope at center. Pugh says that while he knows it's an uphill battle for a true freshman he believes he has what it takes to play early for the Tigers.
"You definitely look for a chance to start at Auburn as a true freshman," Pugh says. "Not saying that I am by any means at all but I feel like I have the opportunity. The situation of losing all three interior guys and having a back up that was hurt a lot this year, I'm good friends with Jason (Bosley) and he's a great player. I'm looking forward to getting down there and improving as a football player and getting to know Coach (Hugh) Nall as a football player.
"Hopefully I'll get to start as a true freshman because that is everyone's dream but if it doesn't come true I'll redshirt and come back a year later ready to have a great career. I'm just looking forward to getting the opportunity and see what happens."