If linebacker Trent Voss continues his ascent to stardom at the University of Toledo, there will be a story to tell of the moment it all came together.
It did not happen in his first season on campus, which ended abruptly amid a technical error with the NCAA Clearinghouse. Nor did it come at the beginning of his second year, which started slowly because of injury.
The clock read 00:04 in the first half of the Bowling Green game when Voss, appearing for the first time on defense, made a resounding entrance that set the tone for a superlative rookie season. He chased Falcons quarterback Matt Schilz from behind, wrapping him at the ankles and registering a sack to force Toledo’s rival to kick a field goal heading into halftime.
Voss was only getting started. From carving out a role early as a headhunter on special teams, to a situational pass rusher by the midway point, to a defensive starter by the end, Voss touched all ends of the spectrum during a tantalizing introductory campaign.
“I really thought by the end of the year he was one of our best players on defense,” Rockets coach Matt Campbell said Thursday after the team’s first of 15 spring practices.
Despite playing intermittently for much of the season, the East Grand Rapids, Mich., product posted numbers — 47 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks — more typical of a starter.
His diving interception against Akron in the regular season finale led to a touchdown that blew open the game in the fourth quarter. Voss made his first start that evening, taking over at star linebacker, and totaled 12 tackles.
“Once the coaches realized I have enough talent where I can apply the schemes, they were able to put me where they wanted,” said Voss, who spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since he has been at Toledo.
Voss (6 feet, 3 inches and 220 pounds) is listed atop the depth chart over returning starter Vladimir Emilien. Junior Sylvestre, who split time with Emilien, is transitioning to weak side, the spot manned in 2012 by then senior Robert Bell. Sophomore Chase Murdock is the front-runner to take on the unenviable role of replacing Dan Molls, the middle linebacker who led the nation with 166 tackles.
Campbell said Voss’ strength and quickness are a good fit for outside linebacker but that his talents could also translate if needed to the secondary.
“If they want to put me at nose guard they can,” Voss said. “Wherever they think I fit is where I’m going to go.”
His first year with the program, Voss would have been content anywhere on the field. A couple of days before the 2011 opener the NCAA ruled him ineligible citing a Clearinghouse issue, and Toledo had to remove Voss from the program. The confusion, Voss said, centered on summer classes he took in high school to boost his grade-point average. Verification of his passing the courses was not submitted to the NCAA.
“It was just a big cluster,” he said. “There were a lot of gray areas. I couldn’t tell you to this day what it was all about.”
He trained that season on his own, assisted by his father, a strength and conditioning coach at East Grand Rapids. When he arrived for a do-over last preseason, Campbell and his staff saw a player they thought could be “really, really good.”
“The ceiling for him is as high as he wants to make it,” Campbell said.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.