Sun Belt reaping benefits of local football talent

Sun Belt reaping benefits of local football talent

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Sun Belt reaping benefits of local football talent

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Pensacola High School's Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day while his stepfather Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on

Pensacola High School’s Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day while his stepfather Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on

Pensacola High School's Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day while his stepfather Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on

Pensacola High School’s Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day while his stepfather Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on

West Florida’s Adarius Purifoy is joined by his parents, West Florida principal Shenna Payne and West Florida coach Harry Lees as he signed with Appalachian State.

West Florida’s Adarius Purifoy is joined by his parents, West Florida principal Shenna Payne and West Florida coach Harry Lees as he signed with Appalachian State.

West Florida’s Adarius Purifoy addresses the crowd after announcing he had signed with Appalachian State.

West Florida’s Adarius Purifoy addresses the crowd after announcing he had signed with Appalachian State.

Escambia’s Jabir Frye signed with Troy University on Wednesday, joining four other area players in the Sun Belt Conference.

Escambia’s Jabir Frye signed with Troy University on Wednesday, joining four other area players in the Sun Belt Conference.

Calif Gossett, right, tries on his new Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns’ visor to celebrate national signing day Wednesday afternoon, while his stepfather, Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on.

Calif Gossett, right, tries on his new Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns’ visor to celebrate national signing day Wednesday afternoon, while his stepfather, Anthony Crenshaw, left, looks on.

Pensacola High School's Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day ceremony at PHS Wednesday afternoon.

Pensacola High School’s Calif Gossett, right, signs a commitment letter to University of Louisiana at Lafayette during national signing day ceremony at PHS Wednesday afternoon.

Year after year, Sun Belt Conference schools have shown interest in Pensacola-area football players when it comes to recruiting.

After national signing day, it’s clear that trend has not changed.

In the class of 2016, five area players have signed with Sun Belt schools.

Troy University signed the most, picking up Escambia’s Jabir Frye after attaining Tate’s Sawyer Smith as an early-enrollee on Dec. 14.

West Florida’s Adarius Purifoy signed with Appalachian State, Pensacola High’s Calif Gossett chose Louisiana-Lafayette and Northview’s Neiko Robinson inked his letter to South Alabama.

National Signing Day roundup

Gossett said the Ragin’ Cajuns and the Sun Belt Conference offered a “perfect fit” for him.

“Today (signing day) has been crazy,” Gossett said. “After watching my former teammates sign the last three years, it’s crazy that I’m up here now. This is a really big accomplishment for me.

“When I first went to UL-Lafayette for a visit, everything was perfect — both sports and academics. UL-Lafayette has the highest graduation rate in the Sun Belt, that really helped me decide.”

Escambia head coach Mike Davis said the connection between the Sun Belt and local players is “good for the area.”

“We really get recruited pretty heavily by the Sun Belt,” Davis said. “It’s a good thing because we can still watch the guys get to go play some good competition, and we can still watch them because they aren’t too far away.”

Pensacola News Journal

West Florida coach Harry Lees has noticed a similar connection between local talent and the Sun Belt.

“This area is not heavily recruited as compared to other areas in Florida. But the kids who come out of here do well. Obviously, you see all the guys in the NFL…,” Lees said. “I think the Sun Belt has seen that. They’re closer with their schools.

“You have Troy, you have South Alabama right here. And the schools around them see where they are getting the kids from and who they are competing against and so they come over here.”

Davis’ and Lees’ respective players, Frye and Purifoy have already started to anticipate facing former high-school teammates and rivals who currently play for Sun Belt schools.

“It’s great to be a part of the Sun Belt now, it’s a pretty big conference in college football,” Frye said. “Being able to play against (Catholic grad) Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama) and (Washington grad) Terik Miller (Louisiana-Lafayette) … it’s gonna be great seeing them boys between the lines.”

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