Shayne Skov has had a very difficult and painful college football career, but it's a testament to his toughness that he's bounced back in his redshirt senior season.
Skov is an aggressive linebacker who underwent three surgeries after a severe knee injury in 2011 and then had a disappointing comeback campaign in 2012.
But this past season, Skov has looked like his old self. The questions about his knee and leg will continue, but there's a lot to like about his game.
This is the strongest point of Skov's game. Some people would say that he "has a knack" for being around the ball, but I hate that saying because it implies that it's more about luck than skill, which is untrue.
Skov is an instinctual player, but it's clear that he studies hard, quickly diagnoses plays, makes a decision and follows through with it. He's relentless in pursuit of the ball and strong at the point of attack.
He lines up in the middle of the field on almost every play and is best when the offense runs the ball between the tackles.
This play shows Skov's ability to hold his ground, let the play develop in front of him and then get after the ball-carrier quickly and drag him to the ground.
Skov keeps his head in the backfield and is extremely strong, which allows him to stuff run plays along the line of scrimmage and up the middle. He also has the ability to stack and shed his blocker effectively while keeping his eyes in the backfield. After watching Skov, it's clear that offenses respect and try to neutralize him.
Oregon did its best to always have an offensive lineman sprint up to the next level and get a shot at Skov to delay his pursuit of the ball. There was even one play where Skov was double-teamed by offensive linemen at the second level, which is pretty rare.
They knew that Skov was the key to the defense, yet he was still able to have a great game and stifle Oregon's uptempo attack.
In an example of a play from that game, Skov shows off his range. He follows the running back on the read-option and tracks him down to make a nice tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He takes a great angle to the ball and shows solid closing speed in making the stop.
Some say that his ability to pursue the ball outside the tackles is poor, but I believe his range is more than sufficient for an inside linebacker.
Skov is not especially quick in small spaces, but his ability to read plays is exceptional, and his first step and pursuit are impressive as well. This lack of quickness can hurt him in passing situations at times, though.
Skov is not often used in coverage with Stanford. He just isn't quick enough to stay with many running backs, which could somewhat limit his stock in the NFL.
There's certainly some extra work that could be put in there, and Skov likely doesn't focus much on preparing for coverage because he isn't often asked to do it. If he isn't focusing on stopping the run, Skov is often blitzing.
Skov's most underrated attribute is his ability to effectively blitz the quarterback and create havoc in the backfield.
He isn't really a pass-rusher necessarily, as he usually attacks between the center and guard or guard and tackle and relies more on speed, power and timing instead of actual pass-rushing moves.
There are some plays when Skov effectively reads the line and attacks a gap where he can get to the quarterback, although he sometimes comes in out of control and can't break down quickly enough to get his hands on the quarterback.
This is what happens here against Brett Hundley, although Skov still forces Hundley to roll out. But Skov's best play is when he times the snap perfectly and shoots through the line to disrupt the quarterback and try to bring him down.
Here are three separate instances of this, which all seem like they have to be offsides in real time (and listen to Mike Mayock's awful commentary in the Notre Dame one), but the replay shows how incredible Skov's timing is.
Skov finished his career with 15 sacks and had an impressive 10 quarterback hurries in 2013, which was definitely due in part to his increased freedom to blitz and roam.
If Skov is given similar free reign in the NFL, he could have some Troy Polamalu-style sacks. But he also needs to control himself and not overrun plays, which he does more on the blitz than in run support.
But when Skov gets his hands on the ball-carrier, he almost always brings him down.
Skov is, generally, a very good and effective tackler. He hits hard, makes direct contact, wraps up well when he's on the move and can dive and make shoestring tackles, too.
Skov pursues the ball hard, chases down every play and really plays with an edge. He also tries to make plays when it doesn't seem like there is anything available, which he did here against Oregon.
This is Skov at his best; using his straight-line speed, hustle and aggression to chase down a play and attack the ball.
But he does have a tendency to tackle up high when he takes on an incoming rusher head-on and relies on pure strength and will to bring down the ball-carrier.
While this tactic works most of the time in college due to Skov's superior strength, he needs to change this habit when he gets to the NFL because he'll probably get run over.
As it is, Skov still sometimes gets driven backward or has to rely on help from teammates to bring down the carrier when he gets "stuck" with his back straight up and has no real leverage to drive the man back.
These screen shots from two different games show Skov in situations where he hits too high.
The silver lining here is that tackling is very coachable, and Skov will have time to develop and work on lowering his shoulder to the ball-carrier's waist and driving his legs through the tackle.
Skov has the strength and desire necessary to become a consistent, fundamentally sound tackler in the NFL, but he'll need some attention and practice with it.
Measurables and Intangibles
Skov comes in at an ideal 6'3", 244 pounds. He's a high-intensity player who wears a mohawk and face paint during the season. His passion and energy are evident on the field, and he is a leader and team captain for Stanford.
Skov finished the 2013 regular season with 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a career-high 100 tackles.
This story discusses his interesting childhood growing up in Mexico and attending three different high schools. The only blemish on Skov's record is a DUI from February 2012, for which he was suspended at the beginning of the 2012 season.
His knee injury will certainly be questioned during the draft process. In the fourth game of the 2011 season, Skov suffered a gruesome injury where he tore his ACL, MCL and fractured his tibia. The injury required three surgeries.
Skov was noticeably slower in the 2012 season, but he has looked much more confident and explosive in 2013. NFL doctors and GMs will want assurance that he'll keep up his 2013 form in the future.
Skov fits best where Stanford uses him: on the inside in their 3-4 defense. It allows him to focus mostly on stopping the run but also gives him the ability to blitz and be a field general.
But Skov also has the strength and tackling ability to be a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 if he gets a little stronger and improves his tackling. The injury will definitely make some teams cautious, but as long as he checks out medically it shouldn't be too much of an issue.
I have him in the 45-50 range right now, and I think he'd be a perfect early to middle second-round pick for a team who wants a strong linebacker that can start right away with plenty of room to develop further.
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