Council Rock's Justin Pugh would fit well with Eagles

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Council Rock's Justin Pugh would fit well with Eagles

INDIANAPOLIS – Justin Pugh grew up in Central Bucks County, about 30 miles north of Lincoln Financial Field, and when Syracuse played Temple at the Linc this past November, he had a pretty sizable cheering section up in the stands.

A pretty sizable cheering section hoping it wasn’t the last game he’d play at the Linc.

“Yeah, the last game I played at my home stadium [vs.] Temple, I had 220 ‘Pugh Crew’ people in attendance,” Pugh said at the Combine Thursday. “So they definitely want me to go to the Eagles.”

It’s not that outlandish an idea.

The Eagles could certainly use a tough, physical offensive lineman like Pugh, a projected third-round pick in this year’s draft.

Pugh said he’s spoken to the Eagles twice since arriving at the Combine.

“I grew up an Eagles fan,” said Pugh, who graduated from Council Rock South in Richboro. “But at the same time, there are 32 teams out there, so there’s a 1-in-32 chance I end up there.”

Pugh’s an interesting guy. The knock on him by a lot of analysts is that his arms are too short to play tackle.

His arms measured 31½ inches at the Senior Bowl, far below the 34 or so inches that most scouts and personnel people believe is ideal for an offensive tackle. The thinking is that without long arms, a tackle can’t get an effective punch on a pass rusher and keep him engaged and off the quarterback.

Some of the top left tackles have arms as long as 36 inches. Tra Thomas, one of the best in Eagles history, measured 36½ inches.

Pugh laughs at all of this.

“Well, it’s actually crazy,” he said. “I played three years never knowing I had short arms. It didn’t really hurt me then. I didn’t know I had short arms until I got to the Senior Bowl.”

It was at the Senior Bowl that Pugh was told his arms were only 31½ inches.

“Today I was 32 inches,” Pugh said with a laugh. “So somehow I grew a half-inch extra on my arms since the Senior Bowl.”

Pugh’s measured arm length indicated to scouts that he might be better suited to play guard, where arm length is less important.

Of course, guards are generally drafted later than tackles and generally make less money.

So most linemen want to play tackle.

“I played three seasons of good football not knowing I had these short arms,” he said. “And now going into it I feel I can play tackle. And all the teams have told me I’m going to play tackle until I can prove I can’t.”

But the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Pugh is versatile enough to play guard, which he last played at Council Rock South, and he said he’d also be able to play center if called upon.

“Yeah, I think I can play every position on the offensive line,” he said. “I haven’t snapped, but I think with my football IQ I know I’d be good with the calls. It’d be just getting the snaps down, which is something that with coaching should come easy.”

Although some of the measurables like arm length might not go in Pugh’s favor, everything else does.

Pugh was a three-year starter for the Orange, declaring for the draft after four years but with a year of eligibility remaining.

He’s smart, experienced, versatile and also has played in a pro-style offense.

“In college we ran the same offense as the New Orleans Saints did, because coach [Doug] Marrone came from the Saints,” he said. “So we did a lot of zone blocking and stuff. We also did power scheme my freshman and sophomore seasons, so I’m accustomed to both styles of offense.

“I think I can fit either way. So it’s something that’s good for me, and being at the Senior Bowl I got more exposure to the inside zone and playing guard, so I was able to show my versatility.”

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Sixers free-agent fits: Shooting guards — Waiters, DeRozan, Crabbe, more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up Monday was point guard. Today we look at shooting guards.

Sixers shooting guards for 2016-17
Nik Stauskas (guaranteed — $2,993,040)

Hollis Thompson (club option — $1,015,696)

Isaiah Canaan (restricted, qualifying — $1,215,696)

Current SG situation
As much as point guard is a huge need, the off-guard is also a concern for the Sixers.

Stauskas, the former lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings, was a major disappointment last season. Sauce Castillo was given plenty of opportunity to show that his rookie season was a fluke and just a result of the Kings' mercurial roster and coaching situation. Known as a shooter from his stellar career at Michigan, Stauskas shot 33 percent from three on 325 attempts last season. That's simply not good enough.

Thompson is a one-dimensional player. He's a shooter. A hot and cold one at that. Thompson doesn't bring enough to the table as a ball handler or a defender to be a long-term solution, but the Sixers may pick up his club option. Thompson is a career 39 percent shooter from three, but his overall field-goal percentage has gone down in each of the last three seasons.

We're calling Canaan a shooting guard simply because he is not a good enough ball handler to play point guard, the position his six-foot frame suits. Canaan is a streaky shooter that really brings nothing else to the table. I'm mostly complimentary of Sam Hinkie's tenure in Philly, but his continued love for Canaan was something I never understood.

This situation may change if the Sixers are able to sign 18-year-old draft pick Furkan Korkmaz. The Turkish sharpshooter was taken 26th overall and will need to be bought out from his club, Anadolu Efes. Korkmaz will certainly be a project but if he can shoot the basketball consistently, he might play.

Reach free agent

DeMar DeRozan (unrestricted)
DeRozan didn't disappoint in a contract year, averaging a career-high 23.5 points per game and helping lead the Toronto Raptors to the No. 2 seed in the East and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. There's still a great chance he could return to the Raptors (they can offer a year more than any team trying to sign him away from Toronto), but teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Heat, Knicks and Magic are rumored to be interested in DeRozan. Even if DeRozan were to consider the Sixers, I don't think he makes sense here. He's 26, which means the Sixers would be wasting his prime years. Plus, he's not a great shooter. This team is being built around Ben Simmons, and a shooting guard that is just a career 28 percent shooter from three doesn't seem like a fit.

Possible fits

Dion Waiters (restricted)
It seemed possible that the former No. 4 overall pick would return to the Thunder, but a draft-night trade that netted OKC athletic guard Victor Oladipo makes Waiters' future there murky. There's been speculation that the Philly native would be open to a homecoming. He's certainly had his issues, but Waiters has shown the ability to score at the NBA level. He shot a career-high 36 percent from three last season (38 percent in the playoffs). He's also only 24.

Allen Crabbe (restricted)
Crabbe, also 24 and also a former first-round pick of the Cavaliers, had his best season at the right time. The Cal product played in 81 games last season, averaging 10.3 points in 26 minutes a game for the Blazers. In my humble opinion, Crabbe would be the Sixers' best option. Again, if you're looking to build a team around Simmons, Crabbe's offensive game fits perfectly. Crabbe can shoot (39 percent from three, 87 percent from the line), he moves well without the basketball and can pull up off the dribble/on the break. He's a California native, so he may not want to leave the West Coast, but the Sixers can offer him a starter's minutes and money.

Dark-horse candidates

Bradley Beal (restricted)
Bryan Colangelo has said that he's looking for the right pieces this offseason and was more willing to give more money for less years while he evaluates his younger players. Beal could be an exception. The No. 3 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2012, Beal just turned 23 on Tuesday. He's averaged 16 points per game and shot 40 percent from three for his career. He does have an injury history, which may scare off teams from giving him a long-term deal. Beal has missed a total of 81 games in four seasons, so basically a full year's worth of time. Beal is intriguing, but I'm not sure the Sixers should give him a max deal.

Eric Gordon (unrestricted)
Going off of Colangelo's desire to sign high-money, low-term contracts, Gordon would make some sense. Gordon, 27, has also struggled with injuries throughout his career. He could be looking for a prove-it deal. The Sixers could offer him a great opportunity to make big money, play a lot of minutes and help a young team that has struggled to put the ball in the hole. Gordon has scored 16.6 points per game in his career. He shot 38 percent from three for the Pelicans last season, down from the 45 percent he shot from distance in 2014-15.

2 Phillies prospects finally get called up... to WWE Monday Night Raw

2 Phillies prospects finally get called up... to WWE Monday Night Raw

As far as the Phillies are concerned, Monday night was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.

Vince Velasquez returned to the hill after his biceps strain and the offense exploded to support him in an 8-0 victory over Diamondbacks in Arizona (see game story).

But that doesn’t change the fact the Phils have gone just 7-19 in the month of June and have seen the good vibes from the season’s surprising start evaporate. The midseason malaise has renewed the call of fans for the club to bring up some of its talented prospects from the minors to try and inject some life into the struggling team.

Those fans got their wish as two prospects debuted Monday night… well, kinda. Their debuts didn’t take place at Chase Field in Phoenix, rather they took place in Tampa, Florida. And they didn’t happen on a baseball diamond, but instead in the middle of a wrestling ring on WWE Monday Night Raw.

Yep, Carlos Tocci and Mitch Walding got the call-up Single A all the way to the big leagues of Raw. Well, sports entertainment fugazi Carlos Tocci and Mitch Walding, that is.

Ok you’re probably confused by now, so allow me, a nerd who blew most of his life’s savings at Wrestlemania in Dallas a few months ago, to break this whole thing down.

Raw was at Tampa’s Amalie Arena last night, just a short drive from Clearwater, home to Bright House Field, which houses the Phillies during spring training and is also the home yard of the Phils’ Single A affiliate, the Threshers. Tocci, a centerfielder, and Walding, a third baseman, both currently play for Clearwater.

Last night on Raw, there was a squash tag-team match, which is wrestling lingo for let’s bring in two random dudes with fake names no one has ever heard of and pay them to get their asses kicked on worldwide television by two established stars to make the established guys look good. Fascinating stuff, I know.

Last night’s established stars were Enzo Amore, a delightfully annoying wrestler with a New York accent who will remind you of your kid on a vicious sugar rush, and Big Cass, another New Yorker who’s 7-foot tall and calls everyone “S-A-W-F-T. SAAAAAWWWWWFFFTTT.” So basically, they trash talk their opponents like you would in your local Philly rec basketball league but then kick their faces in, legally.

Last night’s two random dudes were named Carlos Tocci and Mitch Walding. No, really. Here’s a vid to prove it. Listen as announcer Michael Cole clearly says their names right before the fake Tocci and Walding get beat down quickly. (h/t Nick Piccone on the vid.)

I have no idea where that whole idea came from or what it even means, but it’s still kind of amazing to have wrestlers named after two random Phillies prospects.

Here’s where things get more interesting. Last night’s results on wwe.com have the wrestlers listed as “Carlos Hersey” and “Mitch Walden.” But go back to that video and you can tell Cole clearly says the names of the Phils’ prospects.

Why the switch? I have no clue. Maybe there was some sort of issue or something. But that doesn’t change the fact Carlos Tocci and Mitch Walding wrestled on my TV last night.

For those wondering, Tocci, whom MLB.com had ranked as the Phils' 14th-best prospect before the season began, is hitting .286 with six homers and 27 RBI this year while Walding is batting .266 with nine homers and 37 RBI.

Anyway, I’ve had my investigative reporting shoes on since this all went down on TV last night and here’s what I’ve come up with as the *bulletproof* explanation: Vince McMahon is a huge Phillies fan. Case closed. Thanks for reading.

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Phillies OF prospect Nick Williams pulled again for not hustling

Nick Williams, the Phillies' most advanced outfield prospect, has been on a roll lately, but Monday saw the end of his 11-game hitting streak and a premature end to his night.

Williams was removed again by IronPigs manager Dave Brundage after not running out a grounder back to the pitcher in the eighth inning of a 5-3 Lehigh Valley loss. It came less than two weeks after his previous punishment, a two-game benching for not running out a flyball that was dropped.

When asked about it after the game, Brundage told reporters including the Allentown Morning Call's Tom Housenick to ask Williams himself.

Williams told reporters he didn't have much to say.

Williams' time at Triple A this season, his first with the IronPigs, has been rocky at times. Aside from the two benchings for lack of hustle, Williams also excessively celebrated a game-winning home run on May 3 and attempted a bunt with his team up eight runs early in a 16-1 Lehigh Valley win on June 11. The bunt was not received well by the Durham Bulls and it led to two ejections and some animosity between the teams.

This is Williams' first full season in the Phillies' minor-league system after coming over last summer from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels trade. In 287 plate appearances with the IronPigs, he's hit .285/.329/.460 with 17 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 36 RBIs. He has 12 extra-base hits this month after totaling 14 in April and May combined.