http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2012/09/07/finally-the-wait-is-over


Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - September 7, 2012

Finally, the wait is over

After missing nearly a year, Shayne Skov ready to face Duke

by Rick Eymer

Stanford senior Shayne Skov has been on the sidelines for nearly a year. To say he's ready for some football would be an understatement. Come Saturday, he'll be running around the field like a wild man.

Come to think of it, that would be business as usual for the All-American inside linebacker candidate.

"It's a long time coming," Skov said of his anticipation. "Twelve months of not being able to play the game you love is definitely different. I'm itching to get back out there and it will show by the emotion I play with."

The team's leader in tackles (84, including 7 1/2 sacks) as a sophomore, Skov was forced to miss No. 25 Stanford's season-opening 20-17 win over visiting San Jose State last week. He was suspended for the game following a DUI arrest during the offseason. That came on the heels of a season-ending injury last season.

With Duke, which also won its opener, coming to town for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, there's nothing to hold Skov back from doing what he loves most, and that's making a shambles of the opposing offense.

His appearance is sure to light a fire under the rest of his defensive teammates, too. He's the unquestioned leader on the defensive side of the ball. He's animated, talkative and holds himself to a high standard.

Watching his teammates while on crutches is one thing. Having to watch the Cardinal from his couch was an entirely different experience.

"The second half, I started getting pretty frustrated," he said. "I love football, and the way I play I think resonates that. So to not be able to play it for 12 months has been tough, but it has also been an incredibly humbling experience."

Thus, Skov is excited to be back. How excited? Skov recalled missing two games because of injury in 2010 and being so amped upon his return, he walloped the Wake Forest quarterback a full two seconds late.

"Hopefully, I'll be more in control of my emotions when I play this time," he said. "But I'm certainly excited."

Skov recorded 11 tackles and was credited 1 1/2 sacks in last year's game against the Blue Devils. Even if he can't match that this week, he'll be a welcome addition.

"I'm hoping by midseason that he gets back to his true form," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "The bottom line is that he's still fast, he's still physical. We've had a tough time blocking him all training camp."

That's music to any defensive coordinators' ears.

Stanford cornerback Usua Amanam, the former running back, knows what to expect from Skov.

"Shayne has always been a step ahead of everyone in terms of what he has in his head, the physical ability and his instincts," Amanam said. "He's a fighter, and there's not much more to say."

A year ago, Skov figured to be preparing for his first NFL game right now. That was before he suffered his season-ending knee injury during the second quarter in Tucson last year.

He was trying to tackle Arizona's Juron Criner, who is preparing for his first NFL game with the Oakland Raiders, when a major collision between the two players occurred, leaving Skov with torn ligaments in his left knee.

"It was nasty," Skov said. "I remember seeing it up on the Jumbotron at Arizona while I was lying down. But you just have to move on. If you play football worrying about getting hurt or wondering about 'What ifs,' you're going to miss out on the opportunities you have right in front of you."

Skov also learned a lesson during the offseason when he was charged with DUI in a campus incident. He was barred from participating in any spring drills and suspended for the season opener.

Skov said the entire experience has changed him, beyond football.

"A greater level of maturity," Skov said. "In regard to the injury, any time you lose something, you come back with a greater appreciation for what you have, and also, a greater development in terms of my work ethic.

"In terms of being able to come back and play this year, it was going to take a lot. I learned that what I did before was enough then, but if I want to get back to where I was and improve upon that, it's going to take more. Hopefully, once I'm back to where I was, with the new work ethic I've gained, I've only improved.

"In regards to what happened before, with the suspension and whatnot, just the level of responsibility and the gravity of one's actions. I'm ready to move past that. I haven't forgotten about that and I won't ever forget about that, but I just have to be more mature in how I carry myself and move on in life."

Once he steps onto the field Saturday, the past 12 months will dissipate into the wind and Cardinal fans can look forward to an improved defense that showed some weaknesses — especially in the secondary — against San Jose State.

On the plus side, Skov watched teammates Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley develop into top-notch linebackers and became their de facto coach with advice during game films and elsewhere.

Stanford's linebacker crew is the team's strength and the addition of Skov will only serve to emphasize that. In addition to Lancaster and Tarpley, Palo Alto grad Kevin Anderson and fifth-year senior Alex Debniak are also in the mix.

Seniors Trent Murphy and Chase Thomas started at outside linebacker against the Spartans. Sophomore James Vaughters joined with Tarpley and Lancaster at ILB.

Debniak earned more playing time after he forced a third-quarter fumble that set up Jordan Williamson's winning field goal.

"That was pure, unadulterated effort," Shaw said. "When he saw the ball, the guy was about 12 yards away from him and he ran full speed across the field and hit the guy from behind, and knocked the ball out."

Debniak will likely see more playing time in any given situation based on his success against San Jose State and his effort during training camp.

"He's earned the right to be on the field," Shaw said. "And he justified that with his play on Friday night."

Duke is looking to earn its first road victory over a ranked team since 1971. That was when the Blue Devils won, 9-3, at Stanford in a Rose Bowl season.

Saturday will mark Duke's first return to Stanford Stadium since that game.

"Defensively, they're going to be aggressive," Shaw said. "They have some long, rangy guys on the defensive side, and they try to make it as difficult on you as possible, based on their alignments."

NOTES: Fullback Ryan Hewitt, a key member in Stanford's offense, sat out the season opener with an ankle injury and is questionable against Duke. "I'm leaning toward not playing him," Shaw said, "he's leaning toward playing." .... Freshman RB Barry J. Sanders, the son of the Detroit Lions' Hall of Famer, did not play against San Jose State and is "most likely" going to redshirt this season, Shaw said. .... Junior FS Ed Reynolds recorded his first career interception to end San Jose State's final drive. Reynolds missed last year with an injury after appearing in five games as a freshman.

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