Although Stanford and other college football teams remain focused on the looming closing month for recruiting the current senior class of prospects, the ever-earlier process for recruiting stud players necessitates that schools simultaneously keep one eye on the junior class to avoid falling behind the curve. Indeed, Stanford has already garnered two commitments in the class of 2009. The first junior to take the public plunge for Stanford was Pawling (N.Y.) Trinity-Pawling School's Shayne Skov, an aggressive and versatile athlete who committed to the Cardinal in early September when he visited the campus unofficially for the UCLA game.
Since that commitment, Skov has been busy leading his Trinity-Pawling prep school team to the highest honor available to them, the New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class A championship. As a boarding school in upstate New York, Trinity-Pawling faces a competitive landscape distinct from other high schools. Playing exclusively against New England prep schools, the Pride play a relatively short eight-game regular season schedule leading up to the crowning achievement: playing for ultimate prep school bragging rights in a championship game against the winner of the rival conference.
In his junior season, Skov starred both ways for the Pride and helped them claim those bragging rights with a 7-1 regular season and a dominant 41-7 championship game win over Andover (Mass.) Phillips Academy. Though his efforts earned him all league recognition as a receiver, the team accomplishment was particularly fulfilling for Skov.
"It was gratifying that all of the hard work we put in before the season and during the offseason paid off," Skov says. "The biggest part it did for us was that we all just bonded really well. [It was good] for the PGs to play some more football and to give the juniors and seniors the opportunity. We came together and it worked out for us."
Skov's reference to "PGs" highlights another element of NEPSAC competition that sets it apart from many of the high schools familiar to fans of major college football recruiting. As prep schools, contenders in the NEPSAC differ from high schools elsewhere in that they include post-graduate players who Skov calls "essentially fifth-year seniors" that return to high school for one last year, often to improve their academic standing to gain eligibility for college athletics or to improve their stock in the eyes of college programs. Teams in Trinity-Pawling's conference are allowed four post-graduate players at a time while teams in Andover's conference are allowed eight post-graduate players at a time.
"I came out from California, and coming out from there nobody's even heard of it," Skov relates of his own experience of moving East from Piedmont (Calif.) for boarding school. "But it's quite impressive because you've got a lot of other athletes who are going on to play D-I football."
Consequently, as a junior for Trinity-Pawling, Skov played not only against seniors but also against a handful of these post-graduate players each game. He thrived in that environment, making substantial contributions on both sides of the ball. His All-League recognition came for his work on offense as a receiver, where he had 35 catches for 572 yards and four touchdowns, but he was equally productive on defense with 38 tackles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Unlike players for many championship teams that play over a dozen games in a season, Skov compiled those statistics in only nine games. In those nine games, Trinity-Pawling won seven of them by at least two scores, meaning that "a lot of the time the starters are off the field by the third quarter," further limiting the amount of playing time available for Skov to rack up gaudy statistics on either side of the ball.
Offensively, Skov's contributions must be also viewed in the context of a run-oriented offense that only passed the ball 85 times all year. Trinity-Pawling quarterbacks completed 50 passes on the season, 35 of which connected with Skov. The next closest pass catcher on the team had four receptions on the year. In addition to pacing the passing attack for Trinity-Pawling, typically after going in motion on passing plays, Skov played an integral part in the Pride's signature running game as a blocker.
"We run a three-back offense, so I was playing kind of an H-back role as well," Skov explains of his role on offense as a junior. As a senior, Skov expects his role as an H-back in the offense to change. "I think we're moving to a spread, so I'll probably be in an H-back role. We'll have like a fullback/tight end/wide receiver."
On defense, Skov made his mark as a free safety a year after playing cornerback. By his own admission, the move was a necessity because he "grew a lot." 6'1" and 190 pounds as a sophomore, Skov grew into a safety role as a junior and is poised to move even closer to the line of scrimmage next year. Currently weighing in at 6'2.5" and 228 pounds, Skov figures to play either middle linebacker or outside linebacker for Trinity-Pawling as a senior in 2008.
With high school experience at multiple positions on either side of the ball, Skov presents a versatile profile for projecting a college position. His growth over the past year and the prospect for more growth to come further complicate any attempts to forecast where he will land on the college gridiron. Nonetheless, his conversations with Stanford Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer and Stanford Linebackers Coach Andy Buh suggest that his aggressive style will find a home on defense.
"They see me mostly as an outside linebacker," the versatile Skov shares. "So I'd probably come in as a strong safety and then transfer to outside linebacker. But I'm just happy to be on the field, and where I play doesn't really matter to me."
If Skov does end up on defense, he is excited about the way Stanford's current defense suits his talents. In its first year under Shafer, the Stanford defense went from being last in the Pac-10 in sacks and turnover margin to being third in the conference in both categories. Perhaps even more impressively, Shafer's defense finished the season sixth among all teams nationally in tackles for loss. Taken together, these achievements sent a message regarding the new attacking Stanford defense.
"I just think that Coach Shafer's whole philosophy, the attacking defense, is something I like and it really fits my style," Skov comments. "It allows the defensive players to become playmakers and try and do what they can do. It's something I can really see myself playing as a Stanford football player."
Skov had a chance to see Stanford's defense in action a few times this fall in game and practice situations, fitting in unofficial visits to The Farm on a couple of occasions when he was back in the Bay Area during vacations for Trinity-Pawling.
"I think I first came to campus unofficially for the UCLA game," Skov recounts. "That's when I first picked up the offer. Then I went subsequently for another game over Thanksgiving break and one other time during that break, so I've been there three times."
"It's just a learning experience to see what those guys go through and what the next level's like," Skov says of the value of those trips. "Meeting the players and the coaches, it's just an opportunity to get a better grasp of what football's like, especially at that level."
While Skov's visits brought him on campus for a pair of losses, they allowed him to watch the team battle through adversity and also gave him a sense of the program's progress in its first year under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, a season in which victories over USC and Cal were two of the four wins following a one-win season that cost Walt Harris his job.
"I think they did really well," Skov opines. "Coach Harbaugh is turning it around with the recruits they have coming in next year. The intensity of the team is something that I love. They don't quit. No matter what game it was, they were giving it their all. That's just impressive to see."
Aside from visiting Stanford, time in California during breaks from boarding school has also afforded Skov the special opportunity to work with renowned quarterback guru Roger Theder and his stable of high profile quarterback disciples. When he was in the Bay Area over the summer, Skov took part in Theder's workouts by running routes for the quarterbacks.
"Roger Theder works with various college and pro quarterbacks so he always needs a bunch of receivers," Skov explains. "So he actually called me up. Luckily enough I ended up working with Drew Olson, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens [now with the San Francisco 49ers], and Trent Edwards now with the [Buffalo] Bills and a couple of the college quarterbacks. It was just an eye-opening experience for me to see all these guys who made it to the next level and see what kind of athletic ability and physical talent those guys have."
Of particular interest to Stanford fans, Skov's experience running routes for Edwards allowed him to strike up a bond with the former Stanford quarterback. "You're out there working out with them so you're just talking and kind of get to know them," Skov says of his chance to work out with NFL quarterbacks. "I talked to Trent a little bit; I talked to Drew. I've actually gotten to know Trent pretty well. He's a nice guy."
Theder and the Stanford coaches are not the only ones who have taken note of the athletic ability Skov packs into his 228-pound frame. Skov notes that his early Stanford commitment has not scared other suitors away from him.
"Although I'm committed to Stanford, there's always the very low possibility that my GPA or something were to happen," Skov starts, "so I need to keep some options open in case something were to happen. Coaches from Duke and Virginia came up to see me after the season was over. Coaches from both have called a couple of times. I get mail from Georgia Tech, Alabama, Iowa, Notre Dame."
As Skov acknowledges, his Cardinal commitment does not end the recruiting process for him. Like all Stanford recruits, he must maintain his high level of academic achievement and gain entrance to the school through the admissions application process. While he works toward that goal, other colleges will continue to court him, and he will prudently keep his options open in case he will have to open up his recruitment at some point.
With the first semester of his junior year completed, however, Skov can breathe a bit easier with the knowledge that he turned in an excellent academic performance in a critical term for Stanford Admissions. With Stanford ignoring freshman year grades and the ultimate admissions decisions coming well before the end of an applicant's senior year, junior year grades take on particular importance in the admissions equation.
After a sophomore year in which he earned a 3.3 unweighted GPA while taking a strong course load that included a pair of Advanced Placement classes, Skov's first semester of his junior year proved even more impressive. Notably, his transcript now boasts a heavy load of difficult courses, including Honors Physics, AP Spanish, AP English, AP Economics and Honors Calculus.
"I actually did really well," Skov reports. "I think I ended up with 3 As, a B+, and a B."
"I took the PSAT earlier this fall and it scored out to around a 2000, 2030," Skov continues in laying out the classroom work he has done in preparation for the Stanford Admissions process. With strong grades in a steady diet of honors and AP classes and a forecast for a similarly strong board score, Skov now appears to be on track for his goal of Stanford Admissions, though much work remains to be done before he can truly rest easy.
With a strong junior season on the gridiron behind him and a successful year in the classroom well underway, Skov has much to be happy about. Still, he saves perhaps his most enthusiastic words for talk of the championship he helped Trinity-Pawling claim.
"I was extremely pleased with how it went just because the emotions of winning that one game and bonding as a team, coming together as a family," he says. "I loved it and I can't wait to go back and play again."
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