March 4, 2009

Pugh expects to be versatile

Redshirt freshman Makiri Pugh can't wait for spring practice to get underway.

Considering the physical pain he endured in 2008, it's no wonder.

A high-ankle sprain on the fourth day of preseason drills cost the Charlotte native eight weeks, and when he finally did return Pugh immediately tweaked the ankle again.

Now healthy, Pugh said he's ready to make the impact he hoped he would have made last year.

"One thing about a high ankle sprain, you don't know for sure it's back to normal until you run on it," Pugh told UGASports. "Last year it really didn't feel right until late November-December, but it was really sprained all the way around, my Achilles, things like that. It was just one of those freak things."

Pugh said his ankle is as strong as it's ever been.

It will need to be.

When the Bulldogs begin spring drills on March 17, Pugh will be worked out at three difference positions - free safety, nickel back and boundary corner.

"I've always tried to be a student of the game. That's why in high school I always worked hard to try and study multiple positions, even linebacker and defensive line," Pugh said. "I always thought that made me a better player, so I am going to just indulge the opportunity to learn the entire defensive backfield, to see how it works. I think it will definitely work to my advantage to learn all three positions."

Currently 197 pounds, Pugh is actually down from the 208 he weighed when he arrived at Georgia last summer.

The reason is simple.

Pugh felt he needed to improve his flexibility and quickness. Especially, he said, if he hopes to play all three defensive back positions for the Bulldogs this fall.

"I wouldn't say it's easy, but it's one of those things you really have to focus more because you're learning more than one position. You really have to learn them all at once. Instead of learning individual things and individual coverages you learn the coverages as whole," Pugh said. "Coach (defensive coordinator Willie Martinez) always encourages us to learn all the positions anyway. I just have to put it to use."

Pugh admits his cover skills at corner could still stand some work.

"My off coverage is something I've always had to work on because I've always been more comfortable pressing because that's what I did mostly in high school," Pugh said. "I don't think I'll ever really get out of that form, but playing off I have to learn some more technique. But overall I feel pretty confident in my coverage skills."

Pugh is also confident that Georgia's young secondary will be able to hold its own.

Despite the loss of short corner Asher Allen and strong safety C.J. Byrd, Pugh believes that he - along with the other two members of Georgia 2008 class - sophomore Brandon Boykin, redshirt freshman Bacarri Rambo and redshirt freshman Sanders Commings - will each make big impacts come fall.

"We're all competitors. We were all competitors coming out of high school and we like to push each other because when we push each other we'll get a better result," Pugh said. "Regardless of who starts we'll have to rotate at times because at times you have to put in other guys. We just want to get to a point where no matter which goes in there will not be any drop-off."

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