COMMENTARY | New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin smiled when he took to the podium at the Timex Performance Center, the team's headquarters, to speak about the team's first round selection in the 2013 NFL draft.
"I'd been asked if I thought it was time to take a hard look at the offensive line in terms of young talent," he said. "Well it always is. Some years it's just not available to you."
This year, that talent apparently was available to the Giants, who with the 19th overall pick, selected Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh, 6-5, 307 lbs., the first offensive lineman selected by the team in the first round since Luke Petitgout was plucked out of Notre Dame in 1999.
The selection of Pugh, whom Coughlin said will compete this year at right tackle, gives the Giants a versatile player who, in the mold of a young David Diehl, can play anywhere along the offensive line. That's an important asset for the team to have in a player because as Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting, pointed out, one never knows where a need might develop.
"In a year, who knows what our needs will be?" Ross said. "Just having a guy that, even during a game, if your center goes down, he can go in there. And there's nothing wrong with having a top notch (right) tackle, if that's what he is."
"We think we have a young man who has demonstrated the ability to learn," he said. "He's a very technically sound player (who) we think he can play at the right tackle. We didn't even talk about the versatility he presents because he has big hands and is a guy that can be considered as a center if we thought we needed that."
If Pugh's versatility wasn't enough to win over Coughlin, his response to a question posed by Ross during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind. In February might have done the trick.
Back then, Ross broke the ice during the team's interview with Pugh by asking him which Syracuse football alumnus was he most familiar.
"He didn't say Jim Brown. He said 'Coughlin,'" said the Giants head coach, who played for the Orangemen from 1965-1968 and, who as a senior in 1967, broke the school's single-pass receiving record. "He passed the IQ test right away at the Combine."
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based, accredited sportswriter who covers the New York Giants for Inside Football and the Sports Xchange. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow her on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
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