As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Heading into a big 2012 for the Syracuse program, Pugh will far-and-away be the team’s most lauded player in preseason. Named to several first-team All-Big East lists, the Lombardi (best lineman/linebacker) watch list and Outland (best interior lineman) watch list, respectively, he’s already off to a roaring start. Along with starting every game for the past two seasons, Pugh is also looked at as a top-100 pick in the NFL Draft and has blocked in front of consecutive 1,000-yard rushers. So needless to say, he has made an impact during his career thus far.
This season, Pugh will be called upon to anchor a Syracuse offensive line that appeared to come undone at the end of last season. For the team to avoid another slide as they suffered through in 2011, they must get better protection for Ryan Nassib in the passing game, and quickly establish a solid running game despite having no proven backs returning. Obviously, Pugh plays key roles in all of that, and may still have room to grow. Standing at 6’6″, he’s still just 292 pounds, meaning there’s plenty of weight left to add if he hopes to remain an elite offensive linemen. The hope, however, is that he doesn’t lose his instinctive coordination and blocking ability in the process. Expect his game to rise with the stakes this season.