The Pat Signal went up yesterday, and while many people thought it heralded the signing of a walk-on backup kicker (Sam Scarton), it actually signaled something even more unexpected.
SirVocea Dennis is a two-star linebacker commitment who hails from Syracuse, New York. According to Panther Lair, Dennis spent a year at the Peddie-School in New Jersey (good thing he didn’t get offered by Penn State…) and had committed verbally to Air Force before backing out due to concerns over allergies and sleep apnea…
Dennis’ offer list is long, but not exactly distinguished. His three FBS offers were Western Michigan, Air Force and (surprise?) UMass. You would hope that this is due to his injury history. I am slightly concerned that his hometown school of Syracuse didn’t offer him after his junior year, but hey colleges miss on people in their backyard all the time. Anybody remember WVU quarterback (and Pitt Panther Killer) Marc Bulger?
Dennis’ highlight reel actually surprised me, especially because he’s a two-star. While you can never tell 100% about a recruit from a HUDL highlight video, there are some things that become apparent. First, Dennis has some burst and some sideline to sideline speed. Second, he appears to have some good football instincts. Third, he’s got some good athleticism, and not a bad arm! (Note that I do not think he will end up at quarterback)
By the same token I remember watching video of late-in-the-game-two-star-wide-receiver (from Texas!) Gentry Ivery and saying to myself ‘wow that guy can really run and catch’, so there is a real chance that SirVocea Dennis isn’t even on the team two years from now.
But regardless of how Dennis pans out as a player, his signing begs the question…why a linebacker?
A quick look at the prospective 2019 depth chart shows we’ll have seven scholarship linebackers returning, and three more signed in the 2019 class. That’s a total of 10, which is good for a solid three deep +1. On top of that, our linebacker play, while not spectacular, has been at least solid so LB is not exactly an area of need.
Meanwhile, the offensive line, which is clearly an area of need, has only 11 returning scholarship players (including our recent grad-transfer), and only two in the 2019 class (because I’m not counting Nick Malone). That’s a total of 13 linemen, which is a two-deep +3. I shouldn’t need to remind you that offensive line is a position where players typically need three years to develop physically before they can really hold their own.
I suppose it’s fair to say that we have two Tight Ends in the roster that could be easily converted to offensive tackle (6-7, 280 Grant Carrigan and 6-5, 290 Carson Van Lynn), which puts us at 15 O-linemen on the roster, which is a full three-deep, but if that’s the case, then we become seriously thin at tight end. Either way, it feels like some resources might be misallocated here.
And so here is where the speculation begins…
Maybe an incoming linebacker is being moved to another position. Did anyone see (linebacker recruit) Brandon George’s Running Back Highlight Video?
Just for reference here is another not-recruited-as-running-back highlight video for a player that turned out to be a pretty good running back:
If not Running Back then maybe defensive end? Brandon George also has the size and speed Narduzzi covets in a rush-end (listed at 6-3, 230).
Or perhaps the staff is secretly planning to turn the athletic SirVocea Dennis into a pass-catching tight end? He’s a little bit on the short side (6’1″) but he appears to have the speed and quickness to beat most linebackers. Or perhaps they want to turn him into a slot receiver. You can easily see Whipple making a case for this, given Dennis’ hands.
Or maybe another linebacker is leaving the team. Remember that Elias Reynolds, who started most of the the season after Quentin Wirginis went down with an injury, didn’t travel to El Paso. Is the staff betting that we won’t return at all?
Or maybe the staff simply recruited SirVocea Dennis for what he is, a developmental linebacker prospect, with above average football intelligence and instincts, who may develop into a contributor and can help the team in a lot of intangible ways.
Let the speculation begin…and Hail to Pitt