Auburn, Ala.--After playing last season in the spotlight as a member of the Hoover Bucs and also as one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, Auburn incoming freshman Ryan Pugh knows all about expectations and having to deliver when your time comes.
His time has come once again as Pugh got his Auburn career officially started on Wednesday with a team meeting and his first college practice is scheduled for Thursday.
Part of the most heralded offensive line class since the 1980s to enter Auburn, Pugh and his fellow offensive linemen have been talked about since well before signing day and most every day since then by Auburn fans looking to the future. Pugh says the excitement is something that happens not only to the fans, but also the players themselves as they try to begin to live up to expectations.
"It's something that comes with pressure and comes with a little anxiousness to get out on the field and prove yourself as an offensive lineman," Pugh says. "We have a great class of offensive linemen coming in. I think we worked well together in the summer being able to form a cohesive unit. It's something we have been looking forward to, getting out on the field and proving ourselves, being able to show our talents and how we compare to the older guys."
While they are in direct competition with the veterans, Pugh says it didn't stop their teammates from working with them and showing them the ropes over the summer. He was one of the incoming freshman who reported to Auburn in June to begin studying the playbook and work out to get stronger. Pugh says that he and his fellow frehsmen linemen are more ready to play now than when they arrived because of the help they got from their teammates.
"The older guys this summer were tremendous in helping us learn the offense and showing us how they do things," he says. "They do a great job of just walking us through things when some guys might not have a chance to get that teaching. Coach (Hugh) Nall can't work with us, but the older guys can show us what he would do. That's something that happened this summer to help us become better football players before we even get to fall practice."
Ryan Pugh is a physical center prospect who has the size and strength to play right away if needed.
One of the veterans that Pugh talked to the most was junior center Jason Bosley. The projected center after starting four games in place of Joe Cope last season, Bosley has been around and didn't hide his knowledge of the game from Pugh even though they are in direct competition for a job. The two have known each other since a wrestling tournament four years ago, something Pugh says makes for a working friendship.
"Me and Bosley go way back," Pugh says. "We met when I was a freshman in high school and he was a senior in high school. That is something that is definitely different for most people when they go to college. Me and Boz being friends has helped me because he has shown me the light after not playing center for a couple of years. It's kind of like riding a bike, if you've learned to play center you can play it years down the road. He's guided me through it and helped me learn the offense from the center position."
Without a true backup in place as redshirt freshman Mike Berry will also likely see action at right tackle, Pugh says the backup center position is open for the taking as far as he's concerned. He knows it won't be easy, but he says he's hoping to work his way up to number two on the depth chart and see what happens.
"I think it's definitely exciting to take the number two spot and be a backup in the SEC," Pugh says. "That's something I've worked hard for my whole life.
"One of the reasons I chose Auburn was the situation here with Coach Nall being a great coach and the depth chart being the way it is. At the same time there is going to be competition when two-a-days come. They're not going to give up spots easy. These guys have put more time in than I have and they're not giving a spot away in a day or two weeks. It's something I'll have to earn.
"If I'm the number two then I've got to prove myself on the field to Coach Nall and the rest of the players on the team."