Pugh Focusing On Improving

Center Ryan Pugh talks about his first week of practice as a Tiger and his thoughts on moving up the depth chart.

Auburn, Ala.—Very few members of Auburn's incoming freshman class entered this first week of practice with the credentials of center Ryan Pugh.

Rated as the nation's number two center prospect by Scout.com and a U.S. Army All-American, the 6-3, 282 Pugh was one of the players who many thought would have a chance to come in and compete for a backup job right away.

Through four days of practice, Pugh has done well on the field and has shown he may have the explosiveness and power to compete for playing time this season. Although he's put himself in position to make a move once the pads come on for Monday's practice, Pugh says he's not really concerned with where he stands at the moment.

"Things have gone good," Pugh says. "I'm really just trying to focus on getting better in all areas of the game. I'm not really focusing on the depth chart right now, that will take care of itself if you keep playing hard. I'm just trying to get used to the atmosphere.

"The speed of the game is definitely a lot faster than high school but I've had the opportunity to play in some pretty high level games. The game is starting to slow down a little more as things have gone forward."

Although he was rated as a center prospect, Pugh actually played tackle in both his junior and senior seasons at Spain Park and Hoover, respectively. Because of that he says he's still getting used to being back in the center position, but it's something he knows will get better with every repetition.

"I wish it would have come easier, but it's going to take some work," Pugh says. "It's not going to be something you pick up the first day and run with it. I think it's going to be something I have to figure out. Right now it's definitely a transition. It's not something that will happen overnight. If I keep working at it, it will be a lot smoother."

Pugh works against Bryant Miller in an inside drill on Saturday.

Something that has helped Pugh and his fellow incoming freshmen the first four days of practice was a decision by the coaching staff to split practices between the veterans and young guys. Because of that, Pugh says it has given the young players a chance to get a good feel for the offense and defense and integrated into the way things are done at Auburn.

"It's unbelievable," Pugh says. "You can really only thank the coaches for doing that. We're tired and would love to be sitting home after breakfast and lunch and not come out here at 4:30 to watch the second practice, but it can only make us better football players.

"Being able to get the one-on-one coaching we've gotten the first three days in unbelievable. Coach Nall has been able to break you down to the basic fundamentals. That's something that has helped me as a football player and I know it has helped everyone else."

On Saturday the Tigers put on shoulder pads for the first time and that brought on a little different tempo in both the morning and afternoon practice sessions. On Monday things will get even more intense as the team puts on full gear for the first time this preseason. Pugh says that it doesn't change things as much on the college level because every practice is intense and physical but it makes you more focused on what you have to do each play.

"With pads it's just about playing hard really," Pugh says. "If you can give effort and know what you're doing then you've got a chance to play. I have to become a better football player. I just have to focus on becoming better. I need to focus on making my teammates better and getting myself better."

Likely Auburn's third center at the moment behind starter Jason Bosley and top backup Mike Berry with even Leon Hart getting some reps at the position, Pugh is looking to work his way into the top group by showing that he can get the job done against the veterans in camp. He'll get plenty of chances to show what he can do over the next two weeks but he says right now he's only concerned with improving his game.

"I would love to play," Pugh says. "Wanting to play and being able to play are two different things. You've got to be able to play and you have to know what you're doing out there. Coach (Hugh) Nall tells us every day ‘you're not going to play unless you know what to do'. You've got to take it to heart and get in the playbook and study it. I have to study more."

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