Pugh and Independence play defense, too

CHARLOTTE, NC – So they do play defense at Independence High School after all.

The Charlotte, N.C., juggernaut, which will be going for its 109th consecutive win when the season opens, has become famous for producing high-profile offensive recruits. It's the school that gave college football quarterbacks C.J. and Chris Leak and current Georgia backup Joe Cox just to name a few.

Former Georgia wide receiver Mario Raley is one of the horde of pass catchers to leave the system for a college scholarship.

Now, it's time of the defense to get its due, said Makiri Pugh, a defensive back who has verbally committed to join the Bulldogs' signing class of 2008. Pugh, 6-foot, 175 pounds, is rated a four-star player and the nation's 16th-best cornerback. He also had scholarship offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Duke.

"We've had a lot of offensive guys go to college," Pugh said. "It's a great offense for them so the defense kind of goes unnoticed, but the defense is getting more attention than we have gotten in the past years. I want to make a good impression just like those offensive guys. I hope to represent for the defense."

It makes sense that if Independence produces good quarterbacks and receivers because of its complex passing game, it also would produce good defensive backs. After all, those guys are working against that offense every day.

"Our wide receivers and our offense really push you," Pugh said. "It forces you to play well every play. You are always getting a lot of action. I think I've learned more than some other DBs have learned going against a different system."

Pugh thinks his most valuable skill is his ability to cover man-to-man, but he will be moved from cornerback to safety at least at the beginning of the season this year. Exactly where he'll play at Georgia, he doesn't know; he's just happy he'll be a Bulldog next year.

Being able to talk to fellow Independence Patriots like Cox and Raley helped Pugh make his college decision, but it wasn't the most important factor, he said.

"I think I would have been sold on Georgia had we not had players go there," he said. "I really love Georgia. I think (defensive coordinator Willie) Martinez is an excellent defensive backs coach and a defensive coordinator. They play a lot of defensive backs. He really rotates players, and I like that."

Pugh can rattle off a laundry list of reasons why he chose the Bulldogs, from loving the college town atmosphere to the academic support system.

"There were a lot of things I liked and nothing I didn't like," he said.

Football season at Independence never really ends, but the Patriots officially will begin practice on Thursday, at which point The Streak will be back on the line.

"Everybody takes pride in it," Pugh said of the winning streak. "It kind of trickles down from the Chris Leakes to the Joes Coxes to the team we have now. As a senior, it's your opportunity to put your name down in the great Independence legacy. It's just something that we're supposed to do. It's not so much pressure. That's just the way we have to play the game now."

With his commitment behind him, Pugh can concentrate now on defending the streak.

"I am a Bulldog-to-be, but we have to win another state championship, so I'm really more focused on this team right now," he said. "After we win the championship, then I'll start thinking about Georgia, but I really want to focus on my team."

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