By Joseph Beyda
Shayne Skov, Inside Linebacker
CBSSports.com projection: 3rd/4th round
Cardinal career: Where to start? Skov had one of the most memorable careers in this era of Stanford football, and he’s been involved in some of the biggest moments in the Cardinal’s rise to national powerhouse status.
Skov hit the field for Jim Harbaugh as a freshman and actually earned a starting job for the second half of the season, finishing 2009 as Stanford’s third-leading tackler. He was named the team’s top freshman and followed up the honor by winning the award for the Card’s most outstanding sophomore the following year, leading the team in tackles despite missing the first two games with an injury. Those 84 tackles in 2010 were coupled with 7.5 sacks, three of which came against Virginia Tech in a dominant Orange Bowl showing that served as Skov’s national coming-out party.
But just when it looked like Skov was Stanford’s rising star, the sky fell on the Cardinal linebacker. An ACL/MCL tear in the third game of 2011 sidelined Skov for his junior season, and without him, Stanford was overrun for 94 points by a pair of top-five offenses: Oregon and Oklahoma State. Skov was also suspended for the first game of 2012 due to a DUI.
Back on the field in 2012, Skov was once again able to breathe an emotional fire into a Stanford team that made a surprise run to a Rose Bowl championship. But despite Skov’s key performances against Oregon and Wisconsin that year, he was still slowed by his knee, which limited the explosiveness that had made him such an exciting player to watch.
And in 2013, that explosiveness returned in full force. The Sports Illustrated coverboy was elected team captain and was his old self on the football field, making a team-best 109 tackles and forcing three fumbles. Like in 2010, Skov was at his best in big games, posting nine tackles each against Oregon, in the Pac-12 Championship Game and in the Rose Bowl. He finished his Cardinal career sixth on the all-time tackle list (354) and racked up a bevy of second- and third-team All-America honors to cap 2013, but more importantly, Skov will be remembered as the face (and voice) of a resurgent Cardinal defense that reached four straight BCS bowls — and as the linebacker who led the nerds to revenge.
Pro stock: His size, his attitude, his instincts — all of it is built for the NFL. Skov’s intensity and leadership are hard to ignore, and he’s a proven pass-rusher and open-field tackler. The jury is out on how he will fare in coverage at the next level; the verdict on his run-stopping ability was reached long ago. In some camps, there may be lingering concerns about Skov’s speed since his knee injury, but if scouts are flipping on his 2012 tape, it’s their loss. Former Cardinal defensive coordinator Derek Mason has compared Skov’s playing style to that of Junior Seau, and it shouldn’t be long before Skov starts turning heads in the NFL.
Highlights: Again, where to start? Skov was absolutely dominant in the second half of the 2011 Orange Bowl, as this highlight package shows.
In Stanford’s season-defining upset at No. 2 Oregon in 2012, Skov stuffed Marcus Mariota on fourth-and-1 deep in Cardinal territory to help his team take an early lead over the Ducks.
Against the very same Oregon team at Stanford Stadium a year later, Skov’s ninja-like strip again forced a red zone turnover — and helped De’Anthony Thomas count to 40. Like the refs, you’ll want to see the replay on this one.
And lastly, who can forget the way Skov timed the snap count against Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game?
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.