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Syracuse’s Pugh selected by New York Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants found some depth for an aging offensive line, taking tackle Justin Pugh of Syracuse with the 19th pick in the NFL draft.

While the Giants’ biggest need heading into the draft was defense, they couldn’t resist taking a versatile lineman who can play both guard and tackle and even fill in at center.

New York needs help at both spots with right tackle David Diehl coming off a sub-par season and right guard Chris Snee returning after offseason surgery.

“I think he is going to start out at tackle but I think he is one of those guys in a game that you can plug him in anywhere and he is going to play good,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “He is big. He is smart. He had a high test score, a team captain, all those things.”

The Holland, Pa. native also showed some smarts at the NFL Combine. When asked to name the most notable Syracuse alumnus that he knew, he was quick to say Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

Coughlin liked the answer, and the coaches liked what they saw of Pugh on videotape. He is technically sound. He finishes his blocks downfield and he has no warts, particularly off the field. And he had size at 6-foot-4 and 301 pounds.

Reese had some concerns about Pugh’s 32-inch arm length, about inch shorter than what coaches prefer in a tackle. However, he watched game film after game film looking for it to be a problem and found none.

“There were a lot of good offensive linemen in this draft, up there at the top of this draft,” Reese said of the draft in which six linemen went in the top 11 picks.

Coughlin knew people wanted the Giants to help their defense, which was among the worst in the league in a season that saw them go 9-7 and miss the playoffs.

However, the Giants didn’t waver in their draft philosophy.

“The history of this organization is to take the best player on the board,” Coughlin said.

Pugh was waiting at home for a telephone call, which came around 10:15 p.m.

“It was surreal,” Pugh said. “It was a dream of mine since I was a little kid playing tackle football in my backyard.”

“I got the phone call with four minutes on the clock and I saw that `201’ number and I knew who it was. I turned the TV down and I got a big smile on my face. It was crazy. Then coach Coughlin said: `Welcome to the New York Giants.’ It was amazing.”

A three-time All Big East selection, Pugh skipped his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. He missed the first four games last season recovering from shoulder surgery, but Reese said the shoulder was examined and it is not an issue.

The age of the current line was a concern. Diehl, Snee and center David Baas are in their early 30s and left guard Kevin Boothe will turn 30 before training camp opens. Left tackle Will Beatty is 28.

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