Pitt football fans were caught off guard last weekend when Pat Narduzzi launched his famous ‘Pat Signal’ on Twitter. Fans scoured the internet looking for the name of the mystery recruit. Hours later the mystery man was revealed. The football program received a commitment from 2019 linebacker SirVocea ‘Voss’ Dennis (6-foot-1 inches, 215 pounds) from The Peddie School in Hightstown, NJ.
Dennis, a native of Syracuse, originally attended Christian Brothers Academy and was a standout on the football field. He accrued significant interest from P5 caliber programs until injuries derailed his senior season. To rejuvenate his aspirations of playing college football, he chose to attend the post-graduate program at The Peddie School.
Dennis had a strong senior season and opted to sign a letter of intent to play football at the Air Force Academy. Those plans were altered in January after concerns over sleep apnea and allergies potentially disqualified him from service. He chose to reopen his recruitment and a myriad of schools took notice including Pitt, Syracuse, Connecticut and Massachusetts. When he officially received a scholarship offer from Pat Narduzzi, he wasted little time scheduling an official visit. The visit subsequently led to a verbal commitment.
Dennis joins fellow class of 2019 linebackers Kyi Wright (Farrell, PA), Leslie Smith (Miami, FL) and Brandon George (Reading, PA).
To gain better perspective on SirVocea, Pittsburgh Sports Now spoke with The Peddie School head football coach Chris Malleo, defensive coordinator Mike Tedeschi and teammate Maurice Bellan.
The Peddie School Head Football Coach Chris Malleo
“I think (Pitt tight ends coach) Tim Salem, he does a great job. He recruits our area. He’s always on top of everybody in our program. Randy Bates, the defense coordinator, was actually one of my coaches at Northwestern University. So, we’ve got a great relationship with Pitt and a great connection to all those guys. I’ve had a good relationship with Coach Narduzzi since his days back in Michigan State. I also know Kenny Pickett very well as I was Kenny’s quarterback coach all through high school.”
“We do have a lot of connections to the Pitt football staff and program and they come through and Voss is a guy who I think had flown a little bit under radar and it was unwarranted in that he had produced at a very, very high level and was certainly a Power Five player. I think it’s just the timing and the nature of recruiting nowadays, it’s not common that schools have spots for guys like Voss. He went to the Northwestern Showcase and did it this summer and ran a 4.5 forty-yard dash, broad jumped 10’4″, ran a 4.23 shuttle and I think it opened up a lot of eyes. He had an elite year for us and made Defensive Player of the Year in our league.”
“He was moved to outside linebacker and I think a lot of people were able to catch on and then the offers started coming in and I think Pitt was smart enough to realize to see his length, his size and his athleticism. Teams realized that he’s a three to four down linebacker. He doesn’t have to come off the field in passing situations and you don’t have to go nickel when he’s in the game. He’s physical enough to be in the run game. He presents a unique skill set, so I think they jumped all over that.”
“Voss is an incredibly hard worker who loves football. He always has a positive disposition and attitude. He’s a very, very, rare athlete in that he’s fast enough and athletic enough to do certain things that I think are uncommon for most linebackers especially today’s modern game of walking out and having to try and cover guys. He’s an excellent student that comes from a wonderful family. Both his parents have a military background. Voss’ father was a Purple Heart winner.”
“Voss is around 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-1.5 inches. He’s hovering around 215 right now but he has an incredible build. He’s a pizza away from being 225 pounds. He’s very strong, very long, very lean. He’s well put together. He has a great frame to be a high-level ACC linebacker.”
The Peddie School Head Defensive Coordinator Mike Tedeschi
“Let me start by talking about Voss off the field. He’s just a special young man. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with him as a person. I’ve been coaching for quite some time and he is one of those special kids that you get to coach once in a while in your career. His dedication to the team on and off the field is just unparalleled. He is a fantastic young man. We were lucky enough to get him as a post-graduate. I think he was vastly under-recruited in my opinion. I think he’s got all the ability and talent to play at that level and I have no doubt he will be an impact player for Pitt.”
“Let me tell you a little story about him. During the season he got hurt, he had a hand injury, and we didn’t know if he was going to be able to play. It was a pivotal game for us and you could see his disappointment. He immediately stepped up and got heavily involved with practice, coaching up the other kids and the other linebackers that were stepping into his role. You just looked at it and you knew that the kid just had that heart of a lion. He’s a warrior. He’s like a throwback to a different era. Voss is always smiling or laughing on the field, he’s just an engaging person. His ability to move is exceptional. He can play inside and outside. He’s a special talent. He’s just one of those kids that’s an all-around great kid. He’s going to be a great young man and be an impact for Pitt, whatever role they put him into.”
“I will tell you, Voss is a thumper. He brings it. When he wants to bring it, he can bring it. He’s a big hitter, strong and fast. He’s fearless. I think he’s the kid that will, if dinged up, will push through the pain and play no matter what. You could just see the love for the game that he has, the love for his teammates. When I tell you, you watch this kid with his teammates, how encouraging he is, how much leadership this kid has, he holds a special place in my heart. I love him dearly.”
“It’s just my opinion but I think that Voss can play at any level. I think the problem is sometimes players get a stigma that they’re not 6-foot-3 inches and 225 pounds. Overall size to me is one of the things that college coaches look at. They want to see if the player passes the eye test. I think at times, certain special schools and recruiters, head coaches like Pat Narduzzi and his staff, look beyond that and ask, “Can this kid play? He’s a little undersized but can he play?” You watch the player, you get to meet him, you get to speak with the coaches about the true character of a kid, the true determination of the kid, his work ethic, just the kid himself. Coaches in general start to get a better feel of what the player is, rather than just seeing a film clip of a player.”
“You look at some of the teams we play like The Hun School and other prep schools. All of these schools are loaded with 300-pound linemen. You look at a kid like Voss, he’s handling it against kids that are going to Penn State, kids that are going to Michigan, kids that are going to Texas A&M. We’re playing against that level of talent. We played Gonzaga from Washington D.C. I don’t know how many D1 kids there are. When you watch the kid play and you say, “Listen, sometimes there’s a Zach Thomas in everybody. Sometimes there’s a Peter Boulware in everybody.” And to me, Voss reminds me of that.”
“Voss is an under sized kid that may have been looked over for his size, but when somebody takes a shot on like Pat Narduzzi and staff at Pitt, they are getting one of the best kids I’ve ever coached. He’s infectious. When I mean infectious, he’s infectious. His smile, his attitude, his love for the game, his love for the team and his love for the coaches. I couldn’t have asked for one of those better kids to coach in my life. I’m not saying this flippantly. I’m being honest. I’ve done this for a while and I can tell you, he was just a pleasure to coach, pleasure to be around.”
SirVocea Dennis’ teammate, wide receiver Maurice Bellan (committed to Army)
“Voss is a great player. He has great football IQ paired with amazing athleticism. It makes him a force on defense. He is powerful and will strike with force when he makes a tackle. I have nothing but love and respect for him. Voss is smart and great off the field as well. I’m honestly surprised more P5 programs didn’t pull the trigger on him. Pitt is getting a steal.”
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru