Stanford football defensive end Ben Gardner, outside linebacker Trent Murphy, inside linebacker Shayne Skov and left guard David Yankey were voted captains by their teammates on Wednesday night. The three defenders, all fifth-year seniors, tied in the vote for defensive captain, marking the first time that the Cardinal will field three captains on one side of the ball.
The four seniors will replace 2012 leaders Stepfan Taylor, Sam Schwartzstein and Chase Thomas.
Yankey carries a reputation as the nation’s best pulling guard as he moves back to his natural position this season, having spent a year at left tackle. Even at that new spot, Yankey was named a consensus All-American in 2012. His blocking abilities in the power running game will be crucial this season as the Cardinal looks to replace Taylor’s offensive production.
Gardner made a name for himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the Pac-12 in 2012, tying for the team lead in tackles for loss with 14.5. After coining the defense’s #partyinthebackfield hashtag in the preseason, he backed up the phrase by stuffing Wisconsin running back James White on a crucial fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the Rose Bowl.
Though overshadowed by Thomas early in 2012, Murphy emerged as the Cardinal’s leading pass-rusher, compiling a team-high 10 sacks. Now that he is Stanford’s most experienced outside linebacker, Murphy will look to prove that he can maintain his dominance without a nationally feared teammate across the field.
Skov bounced back from a season-ending knee injury in 2011 to lead Stanford in tackles (91) in 2012, and returns as the face of the Cardinal defense, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated this offseason. Known as a vocal presence in the locker room, it appears that Skov has finally returned to the pre-injury form that propelled him to a four-sack, 12-tackle performance in the 2011 Orange Bowl.
All three defenders announced their return for a fifth year on Twitter on the same day back in January.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda “at” stanford.edu.