With Luck gone, Skov returns for Stanford
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) A quick glance around the Stanford practice field late Sunday afternoon revealed the realities of a new season on The Farm - all the way down to those innovative iPad playbooks.
One leader is gone. Another has returned. Just about everything else is still unsettled.
If only there was an app for that.
Stanford began preseason practice for the first time in five years without Andrew Luck tossing passes, getting a lift from Shayne Skov rejoining the huddle. The middle linebacker tore a ligament in his left knee in the third game at Arizona last season and was suspended following an on-campus DUI arrest in January.
Overshadowing everything is a quarterback competition that is so unclear coach David Shaw is closing off practice to the public and media, and not allowing the possible replacements for the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick to even talk publicly - at least for now. In a dramatic change from last year, the only scheduled open practice is Aug. 19.
"It's a decision made by me not to make this into the circus that exists in other places where this goes on," Shaw said. "This is a football decision. We're not going to make a big deal out of the left tackle competition. We're not going to make a big deal out of the long snapper competition or the safety competition. We're not going to make a big deal out of the quarterback competition. Guys are going to compete, and they're going to compete extremely hard, and the guy that wins the job is going to get the job."
Good luck, coach.
Neither Brett Nottingham nor Josh Nunes have separated themselves enough in spring and summer workouts for Shaw to declare a starter in a competition that could drag out until the week of the Aug. 31 season opener against San Jose State. Nottingham was the backup to Luck last season, while Nunes missed most of the year with a right turf toe injury.
"I would say it's truly 50-50 between the two of them," tight end Zach Ertz said.
Both are sharing snaps with the first-team offense, and Shaw said only one-tenth of the playbook has been installed. Even that is constantly being updated, with Stanford becoming the first school in the country to partner with Denver-based PlayerLync on the new electronic technology. Five NFL teams also are using the iPad playbooks.
Only one thing is certain: nobody at Stanford will wear No. 12 at all for the Cardinal this season, and maybe never again.
"I can't say that we'll retire it necessarily, but as we've said as a coaching staff, the jersey's still a little warm right now," Shaw said. "So we figured we'd put it on ice for a while."
While there is no bigger hole to fill than replacing Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, Stanford has built depth over the last two seasons - both ending at BCS bowls - and Shaw refuses to call this a rebuilding year.
The only dismal news - other than Luck not being around, of course - following the first practice came when Shaw announced that a left knee injury could sideline backup fullback Geoff Menkin for at least half the season, if not the entire schedule. Menkin was injured early in Stanford's spring game.
The other side of the ball has far fewer questions.
Skov's return should energize a Cardinal defense that has already been among the Pac-12's best, ranking second in scoring (21.9 points per game) to Utah and second in total defense (337.6 yards per game) behind rival California. Skov, with his signature Mohawk and liberal display of eye black, led Stanford with 84 tackles and had 7 1/2 sacks two years ago. He likely would've entered April's NFL draft if not for his left knee buckling when Wildcats receiver Juron Criner barreled into him early last season.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since his DUI arrest, Skov apologized for what he called a "mistake." He said he's completely healthy again - though maybe not in game shape after getting cleared by the medical staff to practice not even two weeks ago - and confident the Cardinal will find a way to succeed without Luck the way it did when Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart left after the 2009 season.
"It's different, clearly, because he's quite a talented player," Skov said of Luck. "We've lost guys - and this is no disrespect to Andrew - we've lost guys every single year since we've been here. We will have to change and adapt and grow us a team, and I think we'll do it again. We've done it every year and been successful every year since I've been here and we'll do it once again."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Updated August 5, 2012