For the first time in nearly two years Stanford's star middle linebacker Shayne Skov is completely healthy, and that could be bad news for opposing offenses. Skov, whose rise to college football superstardom was delayed by a severe knee injury he suffered three games into this junior season of college, was productive in 2012, registering 80 tackles and 8.0 for loss. But he was physically hampered by the lingering effects of multiple knee surgeries.
This season, Skov hopes to take his game to new heights.
"I'm ready to surpass anything I've done in my career," Skov said.
Cardinal Sports Report was present at last week's Bay Area college football media day to speak with Skov about the upcoming season, his final one on The Farm.
Cardinal Sports Report: How do you feel physically now compared to this time last year?
Shayne Skov: I don't even think I can compare. Last year I was happy to be able to play football again. Now I'm looking to kind of move past anything I've done before and improve and have my best season yet. It's a complete different ballgame compared to last year.
CSR: At the vacant outside linebacker spot, how would you assess Blake Lueders and James Vaughters, what you've seen from them?
SS: I think they bring different things to the table. I think that one of the keys to any success next year will be our depth. I think if you look back at Alex Debniak last year, he made some critical plays and had a tremendous impact. We're going to expect that high level efficiency out of both of them. Who knows during training camp but I expect them to both to play and split time. They're both talented. So it's going to be something we're going to have to see during training camp.
You guys have been doing a lot of offseason stuff. Do you think you have a feel for the team's general demeanor in terms of how you're going to handle kind of a new role, a little bit more of the hunted than the hunter?
SS: Yeah, it's going to be different. I think the first step and the key to it all is for the seniors and the older guys on this team to look at it as we have to take the opportunity to teach the young guys about I guess the process and what it takes so we recognize that in order to improve on our success or continued success that we've had, we're going to have to increase the work ethic and expectations. Also we're going to take it upon ourselves to educate the young players about what it takes so there isn't a dropoff after some of us are gone. We have to be ready. We have to understand the task at hand and make sure the guys who haven't been around as long understand what it's going to take even long after we're gone and as we look forward to the future.
CSR: What have you seen from some of the younger guys in the offseason workouts, incoming freshmen. Anybody catch your eye?
SS: We've got some young kids. I don't know what kind of impact they'll make early on next year. There's not a lot of them, we only have 12 or 13 of them, but tons of talent. I think Peter Kalambayi has really showed us his athleticism. Greg Taboada, tough kid. Francis Owusu is going to be a big bodied, fast receiver. He's explosive for his size. I can't predict what's going to happen because I haven't seen them put on the pads yet, but I think there's certainly plenty of talent within that group.
CSR: When you look back at spring, was there a guy or two guys on the defense, aside from yourself getting healthy, that made strides?
SS: Yeah, it happens. I think Alex Carter, the fact that he was only a freshman last year, I think looking at Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards, now going into their second year, maybe even third year playing this defense, their mastery of the defense is the big jump I think you see from them. In terms of what they can do disguising coverage, communication, I think you're going to see a big leap from them. And then David Parry, now kind of taking the reigns as the defensive tackle and our nose guard, we're expecting big things from him.
What kind of player is he (David Parry)?
SS: He's a feisty guy. He's immensely talented but I think even since day one when he was a walk on he battled his ass off. And guys always respected him for that. We were never surprised that he's gotten to where he is now. I think you quickly saw that one day he was going to make a huge impact for us. So I think if you ask, none of us would be surprised by it. I expect him to have a great year this year.
Shayne, was it frustrating last year to not be as explosive as you were used to being, battling back?
SS: It was immensely frustrating. When you have a high level of expectation for yourself and you can't find a way or you're physically incapable, it's going to be tough. Fortunately we had a great team last year, plenty of talented guys. So we had success which obviously makes it a lot easier, but I look forward to improving upon anything I've done before and finishing off my career the right way.
Do you gain anything from being a little bit hampered and having to figure out how to get it done?
SS: Yeah, I think you find different ways to get things done. Maybe if you're not at the same physical capacity as you wish you probably improve the mental aspect of the game, communication with teammates. So I think I certainly improved last year and I look forward to continuing that improvement.
CSR: This is the first year in several years that the entire defensive coaching staff returned intact. Is that a noticeable difference for you guys? Is there any sort of cohesiveness that helps or is it not such a big thing?
SS: I think fortunately even though we have changed defensive coordinators the pieces and the style of our defense has always remain the same. Coach Mason and Coach Hart (and Coach Anderson) have been there since we brought in the 3-4. So to a certain degree I believe so but I also believe we've always been able to maintain continuity when we lost coaches or coordinators. But yeah, I'm interested to see what Coach Mason brings back and what he wants to change this year in terms of our defense for 2013/2014.
What was your offseason like this year? Was it any different than it's been in the past coming in as a fifth year senior?
SS: I didn't take summer school or a summer job. I just tried to get ready for the season. So that meant doing lots of yoga, trying to work on my flexibility….This is my last year here so I want to make sure I finish it off right and so I want to be in the best physical shape possible.
Did you do any traveling?
SS: No I didn't. We're basically here all summer doing voluntary workouts. That's just what we do. I think we had almost 100 percent participation in our voluntary workouts all summer long, so.
Was it over the summer that you felt like you were back to your old self?
SS: Yeah, it was a process. It's been slow. Even when I got hurt hey told me it was going to be probably an 18-month recovery until I felt normal. So I came back from spring ball and I felt completely different. And then I started doing summer workouts and it's been constant improvement. You get stronger, you get explosive... every day going through the process and eventually you get the end result.
What type of things tangibly can you feel that are different?
SS: My power clean is higher than it's ever been. I'm close to matching my personal best on squat. My strength numbers, my fluidity on the field… a lot of the credit goes to our strength and conditioning staff. They've put in countless hours with me trying to help me get better and healthy.
Is it fun to be in a league where you get to go up against all these spread offenses?
SS: I think we look at it as we do what we do and we know what we do well. We can play any offense you want. We can play old school Wing-T, triple option attacks, it doesn't matter to us. Our goals remain the same. Stop the run and then on third downs get after the quarterback. We have our recipe for success and we're going to stick to it.