Defense hopes to be even more prominent this year | August 24, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - August 24, 2012

Defense hopes to be even more prominent this year

Thomas, Gardner, Skov lead the way in planned offensive frugality

by Dean McArdle

The Stanford football team, with Andrew Luck leading the way, became known as an offensive juggernaut the past couple of years, capable of putting up numbers to match any team in the country. This year the other side of the ball is looking to make some noise.

Defense, especially pass defense, has not been the Cardinal's strong suit in recent years. The squad's success has largely been a result of the Luck-lead offense, ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense the past two seasons, racking up enough points to cover any defensive deficiency.

But that era is over. Luck is gone, along with tight end Colby Fleener and several other offensive cogs. The big names on this year's Cardinal squad will be trying to keep the scoreboard quiet.

While the Cardinal pass defense was ranked 95th in the country in 2011, the run defense was ranked fourth, allowing a stingy 88.38 yards a game. And all the centerpieces of that run defense are back in 2012

Redshirt senior outside linebacker Chase Thomas is the veteran of the group, and the team captain is garnering national attention as one of the nation's top run stoppers. Thomas was named to the preseason watch list for several national awards, including the Butkus award, which goes to college football's top linebacker.

"It all starts with Chase," said redshirt junior defensive end Ben Gardner.

Thomas grabbed the national spotlight by leading the Pac-12 in tackles for loss per game, and was second in sacks per game last year. Sporting News named the redshirt senior an All-American following last season.

Joining Thomas on the Butkus Award watch list is senior middle linebacker Shayne Skov and redshirt junior outside linebacker Trent Murphy. After being named an honorable mention All-Pac-10 player his sophomore year, Skov tore his ACL in week three of his junior campaign, ending his season.

Skov's return will help shore up the Cardinal's linebacking corp. He brings the speed needed to fix the open-field tackling problems that Gardner named as the defense's biggest problem in 2011.

"The teams that have given us trouble in the past are teams with playmakers on the perimeter, guys that can make you miss in the open field," Gardner said. "We gave up too many big plays last year, and if we can limit those big plays by making the tackle on the first try then we are going to be fine this year."

Gardner, a second team All-Pac-12 selection last year, was named to the Lombardi watch list as one of the nation's top linemen.

"We feel like we could have one of the best rush defenses in the nation this year," said Gardner.


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Save $5 when you register by Monday, July 24

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here