Both redshirt senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas and senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov are preseason candidates for the Bednarik award, given to the best defensive player in college football.
Thomas was an integral part of the Cardinal defense last season, averaging a Pac-12-leading 1.35 tackles for loss per game as well as 0.65 sacks per game. The inside linebacker also forced critical turnovers, as he was responsible for five forced fumbles, good for second in the conference and 10th in the nation.
Skov was unable to play for the majority of the past season due to a knee injury. During the 2010-2011 season, however, Skov accounted for a team-high 84 tackles and also racked up 7.5 sacks along the way.
On offense, redshirt senior center Sam Schwartzstein and redshirt sophomore tight end Levine Toilolo are on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Award and John Mackey Award, respectively.
Starting in every game last season, Schwartzstein played a huge part on a dominant Cardinal offensive line that gave up just 11 sacks and paved the way for 2,738 rushing yards.
Toilolo caught 25 passes for 343 yards last season as part of the Stanford tight end trio. Six of Toilolo’s receptions were touchdowns, second best on the team behind senior Coby Fleener’s 10.