The Giants put Justin Pugh on the spot with the first question of their combine interview.

"Who is the Syracuse alum you are most familiar with?" Marc Ross, the Giants’ director of college scouting, asked.

The Syracuse offensive tackle responded, "Tom Coughlin."

"Everyone started laughing and said, ‘Welcome to the New York Giants,’ " Pugh recalled last night. "I guess I should have saw that as a little bit of a sign they might be targeting me."

Sure enough, with the 19th pick of this year’s NFL Draft, the Giants selected Pugh — furthering the year of offensive linemen. Pugh was the seventh offensive lineman drafted in the first round last night, and the fourth offensive tackle, following Eric Fisher (Chiefs at 1), Luke Joeckel (Jaguars at 2) and D.J. Fluker (Chargers at 11).

General manager Jerry Reese said Pugh was the best available player on their board when they picked. But he also helped fill an important need, fortifying an aging and ailing offensive line and providing a possible answer at right tackle.

"We could see the offensive line is aging a bit as well, but we go into the draft like always," Reese said. "We’re sitting there at 19 and really kind of sweating it a little bit because those guys were coming off pretty quickly."

Pugh was a three-year starter for Syracuse at left tackle, but with Will Beatty entrenched at that spot, the Giants expect to put Pugh at right tackle to start out, coach Tom Coughlin said. Eleven-year veteran and incumbent right tackle David Diehl coming is off a down year, taking a pay cut to return, while James Brewer behind him is still unproven.

Pugh said he is willing to fill whatever role the coaches need, but he is "confident" in his ability to be a starter by opening day.

"I’m sure that competitively, he’ll have that opportunity," Coughlin said. "And if he wins the job, then he would be the starter."

Pugh’s versatility appealed to the Giants, who say he can play all five positions on the line — including center, because of his large hands. While Pugh’s collegiate experience is at left tackle, the Giants watched him play some right tackle at the Senior Bowl. Ross also said Pugh’s test scores were among the best in this year’s class, so his intelligence can help him adapt.

The Giants have made strengthening their trenches a priority this offseason. They re-signed Beatty before free agency opened, then added Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson to their defensive line. Right tackle was the spot that still loomed large.

"It certainly was a strong consideration," Coughlin said. "I’ve always believed if you are strong on the offensive and defensive lines, you’ve got a great chance to be competitive.