Aug. 8, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford's group of inside linebackers will be bolstered by the return of senior Shayne Skov, who missed the final nine games of 2011 after sustaining a knee injury in Week Three at Arizona.
Despite missing the majority of last season, Skov built a strong enough resume over his first two seasons to land spots on the preseason watch lists for the Butkus and Bednarik Awards, given annually to the top linebacker and defensive player in college football.
He led the team in tackles as a sophomore in 2010 and despite missing the first two games of the season with injury and turned in a dominating performance in Stanford's win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, finishing with 12 tackles, 3.0 sacks and one pass breakup.
In two bowl games, Skov has totaled 27 tackles, following a 15-tackle effort vs. Oklahoma in the 2009 Sun Bowl.
The Cardinal also returns junior Jarek Lancaster (44-26-70; 3.5 sacks) and sophomore A.J. Tarpley (28-29-57; 4.0 TFL), who finished first and third, respectively, in tackles last season.
Tarpley appeared in all 13 games and started seven of the last eight games at inside linebacker and finished as the team's third-leading tackler with 57 stops. He also had 1.5 sacks among his 4.0 tackles for loss to go along with had one interception and a fumble recovery, both against USC.
He made a season-high nine tackles at USC and intercepted a Matt Barkley pass in the first quarter. Tarpley also earned his place in Stanford lore as the player who recovered Curtis McNeal's fumble in the end zone to end the triple-overtime thriller at the Coliseum.
Lancaster took over the starting duties at inside linebacker when Skov was lost for the season and finished the year as the team's leading tackler. He had six or more stops in seven games and took team-high honors with back-to-back 10-tackle efforts against Washington and USC.
He also shared the team lead in tackles with Delano Howell, making seven stops against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Sophomore James Vaughters (6-5-11) figures to make a strong push for a starting role alongside Skov, while sophomore Joe Hemschott (7-4-11) continues his rapid rise among this group and will again be a huge factor on special teams.
"They all bring something different to the table," said inside linebackers coach David Kotulski, who enters his first year on Stanford's coaching staff after spending the previous six seasons as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Lehigh. A 31-year coaching veteran, he has also served on staffs at Holy Cross, Bucknell, Saint Mary's and Utah.
"There's a lot of competition going on right now and we are very excited about this group as a whole."
In this installment of "Previewing the Cardinal," Kotulski breaks down Stanford's inside linebackers, a unit ranks among the best in the Pac-12 Conference.