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Published: February 04, 2009 11:42 pm  

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: GI’s Neutz among three locals in recruiting class

By Jonah Bronstein

There was a time not long ago when the University at Buffalo recruited local football players, in part, because the so-called hometown discount was its best chance at adding top talents.

That changed over the past few years as Turner Gill elevated UB from a perennial loser to champions of the Mid-American Conference and featured participant in the International Bowl.

Locals have played a prominent role in the Bulls’ resurgence — notably Niagara Falls native James Starks, and St. Joe’s products Naaman Roosevelt and Domonic Cook. But with Gill and his staff able to mine fertile areas out of state, they didn’t need to sign local players if they did not want to.

Grand Island’s Alex Neutz knew he was among the top players in Western New York when he was named a Connolly Cup finalist and Niagara Gazette Player of the Year last fall.

He knew he was one of the top players in the country when Gill called up around the same time to offer him a scholarship.

“It’s incredible to be considered,” Neutz said Wednesday after signing his letter of intent to play at UB during an after-school ceremony at Grand Island. “When they’re giving me a look, they’re also going to Texas, Florida, California, Ohio — great places for football.”

Neutz, a 6-foot-3 wide receiver who caught 51 pass for 22 touchdowns and a WNY-record 1,182 yards as a senior, was among three local players, and six from within the state to join a 23-member recruiting class that Gill said is “defined by athleticism, size, physicality and explosiveness.”

Delano Fabor, the St. Francis star, and Pat Wilson, an offensive lineman out of Canisius, were the other Western New Yorkers.

Wilson was one of four players Gill mentioned as capable of contributing right away, along with Darius Willis, Kenny Scott, Rick Perez and Matt Jones.

Willis, a middle linebacker, was one of last year’s top recruits. He didn’t meet academic eligibility requirements to play in the fall, but enrolled at UB, and will participate in spring practices. Scott, a defensive tackle, was originally recruited to Tulsa, and spent the last two seasons at junior college in Georgia. He’s also already enrolled at UB.

Miami native Perez was rated as the No. 11 center by ESPN.com. Jones is a middle linebacker from the Rochester-area Aquinas Institute.

Said Neutz, “I think this class is going to really do some damage in the years to come.”