Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, March 9, 2016

By Sammy Batten

Mississippi gem could shine at ECU


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By Sammy Batten
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East Carolina's new defensive line coach Deke Adams went back to his roots in order to secure a true “sleeper'' in the Pirates recruiting class of 2016.

Adams is a native of Meridian, MS, and starred at the local public high school before embarking on an all-star career on the defensive line at Southern Miss. One of Adams' prep teammates was William McNeil, who is now defensive line coach at The Lamar School, a private prep school in Meridian.

The friendship with McNeil exposed Adams to Chance Purvis and eventually led Lamar's defensive line star to sign a national letter of intent to play for East Carolina last month.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Purvis had been flying under the recruiting radar despite a three-year varsity career at Lamar that included helping the Raiders win the state Academy AAA-II title as a sophomore, being named twice to Mississippi's independent schools all-state team and earning MVP honors in the state independent school all-star game as a senior.

But as the holiday season came and went last year, Purvis only had offers to play for some of Mississippi's top-notch junior colleges like East Central Community College, Southwest Mississippi and Jones County.

Enter Adams, who had known about Purvis since McNeil brought him to summer camp at South Carolina as a sophomore. Adams was the defensive line coach for the Gamecocks at the time.

“I actually coached Deke in the late 1980s when I was at the public school here in Meridian,'' Lamar coach Mac Barnes said. “He was a great player for us. Well, one of our assistants (McNeil) had kept up with Deke and took Chance to camp at South Carolina for two years. Deke got to watch him and liked him. But South Carolina wanted bigger guys at defensive end.''

When Steve Spurrier decided to step down as South Carolina's coach, Adams was quickly scooped up by new East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery to coach the Pirates' defensive linemen. Adams immediately contacted McNeil to inquire about Purvis.

“Deke and their new coach came down to visit and that was pretty much it,'' Barnes said. “For whatever reason, East Carolina was the only major school that offered him. I think in two years a lot of people are going to wish they had done that. But I'm not sure if our assistant coach hadn't taken him to the South Carolina camp that even East Carolina would have know about him. They really got a sleeper, I think.''

Barnes should know. He sent more than 150 players into the college ranks during a 26-year coaching career at Meridian High, including Super Bowl champions in offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker (Tampa Bay 2003) and cornerback Dexter McCleon (St. Louis Rams 2000).

Since moving to Lamar, the college prospects have been few and far between. But when Barnes encountered Purvis as an eighth grader, he recognized a special talent.

“He was 6-foot, 185 pounds at that time,'' Barnes said. “He was on our junior high team and was an outstanding player along [with] the quarterback. But his mother is very tough on him and when his grades weren't where she thought they should be, she pulled him off the team.

“He was basically a student with us in the ninth grade. It really hurt us that he didn't play that year.''

Purvis would return with a vengeance as a sophomore. He, along with freshman quarterback sensation Davis Harrison, would lead the Raiders to an 11-3 record and 28-21 victory against Magnolia Heights in the state championship game. Purvis would earn first-team all-state honors in the independent league ranks.

Playing mainly as a defensive lineman, Purvis capped his career with a banner senior season in which he made 107 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, six sacks and blocked three kicks.

“He's just so athletic,'' Barnes said. “He would block kicks for us when we didn't even have the block call on. He hits people so hard in the pass rush. Everybody we played talked about him. He was in on over 100 tackles this year and close to 300 for his career.

“Two or three times this season when people would run the read- or zone-option, he'd tackle both guys. He was quick enough to get there and was able to adjust his body to make that athletic move.''

Barnes believes Purvis could play defensive line or outside linebacker for East Carolina.

“He's competed in a lot of 7-on-7 stuff for us and done well in coverage,'' Barnes said. “He's one of those guys at 6-2, 215 who runs a 4.58 40 that you can do a lot of things with. You look at (Super Bowl MVP) Von Miller (of Denver Broncos) who is about 6-2, 248. Chance could put on another 30 pounds, keep that 4.5 speed and be a guy like Miller on the defensive line.

“If he gets a little faster and stays around 220 or 225, he could learn the outside linebacker position. He's a guy who could do both.''

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03/08/2016 04:56 PM