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NCAA Football Pac 12 FootballStanford Cardinal

Shayne Skov is Most Important Player on Stanford Cardinal Defense in 2013

Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford Cardinal plodded their way to a Pac 12 championship in 2012 on the back of a stout defense and physical running game. The running game isn’t going anywhere as David Shaw continues to coach one of the toughest and most physical offensive lines in all of college football. There were some questions, however, about how well the defense would hold up going into next season. But those concerns will soon be forgotten as the Stanford defense will return next fall even better than they were in 2012, thanks in large part to the return of Shayne Skov at linebacker.

Before he injured his knee in 2011 against the Arizona Wildcats just four games into the 2011 season, Skov was well on his way to being a first-round NFL Draft selection. The injury forced him to return to school and while he made it back onto the field in 2012, he still wasn’t the same player he had been before the injury, admitting at one point that he was playing at around 80 percent. He was missing that burst that made him so special as an athlete and a linebacker, though he still led the team with 80 tackles, including eight for loss with 2.5 sacks.

In 2013, Stanford will get Skov back fully healthy, where he will break out as one of the premier linebackers in the country. During spring practices, Skov was making plays all over the field, sometimes outrunning his own defensive teammates to get to the ball before everyone else. He has put that missing burst on display, blowing past blockers and getting himself in on most of the tackles during scrimmages.

There is no questioning what Skov brought to the team with his intangible ability to lead the defense, but with a fully healthy knee underneath him, Skov will take his game to the next level in 2013 and be a major force that opponents will fruitlessly try and slow down. Along with the return of fellow playmakers Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner, an elite Stanford defense from 2012 could become one of the most dominant units in the whole country in 2013.

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