Chip Kelly knew how to pour it on the Stanford defense. From 2007 -- when he first arrived as Oregon's offensive coordinator -- through 2011 -- by which time, Kelly was the head coach -- the Ducks rolled up an average of 47.4 points and 524.6 yards in five meetings with the Cardinal. Even the 51-42 loss to Stanford in 2009 was more about quarterback Andrew Luck's breakout performance than any particular understanding of how to shut down the Oregon blur.
That all changed last season at Autzen Stadium, as Stanford held Oregon to 14 points and 405 yards in an upset that propelled the Cardinal to the Pac-12 North title. Inside linebacker Shayne Skov was a main reason why, with 10 tackles and one tackle for loss. Skov had a key fourth-down stop near the goal line in the first quarter, setting the tone for how the game would play out.
But Skov says he was still hindered by the left knee injury that cost him most of the 2011 season and is only now fully healthy.
"It doesn't even compare," Skov said ahead of Stanford's season opener this Saturday night versus San Jose State. "Last year was a struggle. I wasn't playing the same way I was used to.
"This year, I'm glad to be back physically. I'm medically cleared. My knee is 100 percent healthy. Having that liberty to run around without my knee brace on was tremendous. I'm really excited."
Skov still led the team with 81 tackles last season, adding nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. However, he did not create a single turnover. That will have to change to enhance his draft stock, though NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt lists Skov as the No. 31 overall senior in college football.
If Skov's knee is as good as advertised and he can add sideline-to-sideline range to his track record of punishing play and revered leadership, he might be the perfect option to deal with the rise of up-tempo offenses in the NFL.