As we continue our march to kickoff, we take a look at the top 100 recruits to sign with Auburn of all-time*. The rankings are based on 247’s composite recruit rankings, which unfortunately only date back to 2000.
Ryan Pugh was the top center in the country coming out of high school in the 2007 class, and one of the top players in the state of Alabama, as well. Pugh committed to the Tigers a few weeks before signing day in 2007. Here’s what 24/7 had to say about Pugh:
There may not be a more fundamentally sound player in the state with great footwork, terrific hands, and a great lateral speed keeping the backside sealed off in run blocking and pass blocking. Still some question on how he will transition to play on the interior of the line with the way he normally plays in space, but he shows quick reaction time and good teamwork on seals to indicate he should be a solid player in college very early.
The scouting report above ended up being spot on for Pugh, as he found himself in the starting role as a freshman for Al Borges final offense on the Plains. Pugh was not the only one freshman on Auburn’s offensive line that season, as Lee Ziemba had already earned a starting tackle spot out of camp. When Auburn got Croomed at home, Tuberville made the decision to pull the redshirts off Pugh and fellow freshman Chaz Ramsey.
Despite offenses that struggled in 2007 and 2008, Auburn saw a resurgence on offense in 2009 for a variety reasons. While the new offensive genius at OC and suddenly uber-talented Chris Todd at quarterback get all the credit for the 2009 offense, the offensive line being full of juniors with two years of experience deserve a large chunk of the praise. Ben Tate had a ton of holes to run through en route to a 1362 yard, 10 touchdown season in 2009, and keeping Chris Todd upright and healthy was integral to the Tigers success.
This, of course, brings us to 2010. Cam Newton was a god amongst men in the 2010 college football season, but his play was magnified by the four seniors on the offensive line (Ziemba, Mike Berry, Pugh, and Byron Isom). With Pugh at center, Malzahn was able to trust his offense and push tempo on defenses that just couldn’t keep up. The center position is responsible for a lot of the reads on the offensive line, and Pugh excelled at it.
Pugh ended his Auburn career with 45 starts at center, and a national title ring to show for it. He would get a shot on the Panthers’ practice squad as a UDFA (being the center for possibly the best college QB of all-time opens some doors), but his pro career never took off.
Pugh, a coach’s son, decided to pursue coaching himself, and in 2012 returned home to Auburn as a GA, where he was able to impart some of his wisdom on another great Auburn center, Reese Dismukes. The former four-year starter at center would travel the country as a grad assistant, getting a spot at Virginia Tech in 2013, Cincinatti (thanks Tubs) in 2014, and LSU (hi there Coach Ensminger) in 2015.
Pugh picked up his first assistant job as the UTSA assistant in 2016, where we worked as the OL coach for two years. He then moved up to BYU last season, and new Troy head coach Chip Lindsey (hey we know him!) hired Pugh on as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator for the upcoming season.
I’ve discussed it elsewhere, but Gus Malzahn is beginning to build a decent little coaching tree of former players and assistants. Here’s to Pugh continuing to make a name for himself as an OC in 2019!