Sept. 20, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - No one is sugarcoating the impact the loss of Shayne Skov will have on Stanford's defense over the remainder of the season.
At the same time, head coach David Shaw is not looking for sympathy either, as he feels the Cardinal is in a much better position from a depth standpoint to absorb a loss to a frontline player than in recent years.
"It's night and day," said Shaw following the team's two-hour workout under warm sunshine on Tuesday morning. "We've recruited hard and we have good players up and down the roster. We made sure we played a lot of guys early for reasons just like this. We need every available body at any given time, so we are going to make sure we have guys ready to step in at every single position."
The Cardinal will count on sophomore Jarek Lancaster and redshirt freshman A.J. Tarpley to cover Skov's loss at inside linebacker. Both players have earned increased playing time over the first three games of the season. Tarpley finished with a career-high seven tackles at Duke while Lancaster pitched in with five tackles last Saturday at Arizona, as the defense shut out the Wildcats in the second half.
"We have a lot of faith and trust in those guys," said Shaw. "A.J. is a little bigger and Lancaster might be a little faster. The bottom line is they are both ball hawks. They find a way to get to the ball and make tackles. Neither one is as big or physical as Shayne but they are both slippery, hard-to-block guys."
Both Lancaster and Tarpley feel they are more than ready to meet the challenge, thanks in large part to Skov's constant mentoring.
"He's always been good about passing on every piece of information possible to help others be a better player," said Lancaster, a third-year junior from Helotes, Texas, who was recruited to Stanford as a strong safety before being transitioned to linebacker. "Having him in my corner has really helped my confidence."
Tarpley is comfortable in being used in tandem with Lancaster to fill the void of one of the Pac-12's top defensive players.
"We know one person can't do Shayne's job alone," Tarpley said. "He is always helping guys to get better. That's Shayne Skov."
Tarpley said Skov passed on some wise words which were clear and to the point.
"He told us not to think about anything - just play. Trust your natural ability; just play."
Lancaster mentioned Skov was in good spirits for someone who sustained a season-ending injury.
"Shayne is not going to sulk around and feel sorry for himself," Lancaster said. "He's one of those guys who always sees the glass half full. Right now, he's focused on continuing to eat well so he doesn't become a chubby bunny."
Bye Week Comes at a Good Time
When Shaw first saw the 2011 schedule, his first thought was the bye week came too early. After a very physical contest at Arizona coupled with student orientation activities in preparation for classes beginning next week, Shaw now welcomes the break in the schedule and the opportunity to finetune some fundamentals without having to prepare for a game on Saturday.
"We are picking out some things we've seen over the first three games that we need to spend some time working on. We have taken some of the hits off the guys who have played a lot over the first three games, but at the same time, we will have some physical practices this week."
Stanford has made the most out of its bye weeks in recent years. The Cardinal has won each of its last three games following bye weeks, including a memorable upset of seventh-ranked Oregon in 2009.
Williamson Impressive in Early Going
Stanford has been spoiled by the accuracy of kickers Aaron Zagory and Nate Whitaker over the last three seasons, as the duo combined to convert 47 of 58 (.810) of their field goal tries.
Whitaker graduated ranked first on Stanford's career list for field goal percentage, having made 33 of 41 (.805) of his tries in his two-year Cardinal career.
Jordan Williamson has picked up where his predecessors left off, as the redshirt freshman has made all six of his field goal tries this season, including an impressive 45-yarder last Saturday night against Arizona. He is also gaining distance in his kickoffs with each and every game.
"He's been very impressive," said Shaw. "His first game, the kickoffs weren't up to par. The second game he was a little better and the third game he was perfect. It's typical of a young player. The more reps he gets the more comfortable he will be. Every kick last Saturday had the exact direction and distance we needed."
Cardinal Boasts Nation's Longest Active Winning Streak
Stanford's 37-10 win at Arizona on Saturday coupled with Auburn's loss to Clemson gave the Cardinal the distinction of holding the nation's longest active winning streak, which is now at 11 games. It's the fourth longest winning streak in school history and the longest since 1939-41, when the Indians won 13 straight over three seasons.
Stanford is ranked fifth in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls this week, marking the program's highest ranking at this point in the season since 1970, when it was ranked third heading into an October 3 game against Purdue.
Stanford has been ranked in the AP poll for 18 consecutive weeks, which is the program's longest continuous stay since 1991-93 (26 weeks). The Cardinal has been ranked in the Top 10 of the AP poll for 10 straight weeks dating back to last season, marking Stanford's longest run as a Top 10 team since 1940 (8 weeks).
Stanford's defense has allowed just two offensive touchdowns this season and just nine touchdowns in as many games dating back to last season. The defense has posted eight scoreless quarters this season and ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 9.0 points a game. Stanford also is tied for fifth nationally in sacks per game (4.33) and is tied for 31st in total defense (301.67).
Jim Young, Senior Asst. AD/Communications and Media Relations