At one time, Shayne Skov was considered one of the best inside linebackers in college football.
At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, the standout at Stanford was a starter as a freshman and the team’s leading tackler in 2010, his final season under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and head coach Jim Harbaugh.
In Stanford’s 40-12 Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in January of 2011, Skov had 12 tackles, broke up a pass and had three sacks.
But he lost the 2011 season to a knee injury and had some difficulties in 2012 before regaining his form in 2013 when he posted big numbers for the Cardinal: 109 tackles (including 13 for loss) and 5½ sacks.
Despite his big senior year, however, Skov went undrafted.
Now he’s with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent, and his decision to sign with San Francisco makes all the sense in the world. Then again, it makes no sense at all.
First, Skov feels comfortable signing with the 49ers because of Fangio, the coaching staff and the defensive system. He knows it and feels confident in it, and he believes Fangio and Co. have faith in his talents.
“The coaches have a belief in me and my abilities as a player,” Skov told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “And I have a belief in me. Obviously, I’m an undrafted free agent, so I have to get to work and prove myself, but I think I’ve got an opportunity here.”
He’ll get his first chance to show the coaching staff what he can bring at this weekend’s three-day rookie minicamp, which begins Friday.
Yet by signing with the 49ers, Skov faces long odds of making what is already a stacked, talented roster. Even though inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is expected to miss the first half of the season until he’s rehabbed fully from a knee injury, the 49ers already have veterans Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody and third-round selection Chris Borland from Wisconsin to fill that spot. Wilhoite played well last season in backing up Bowman and Patrick Willis, and Borland was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Moody was a sixth-round pick from Florida State in 2013 who played well on special teams as a rookie.
Skov already has been working with teammates at the 49ers practice facility and says he’s eager to learn from them, especially Willis, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick.
“I’m really excited to work with these guys,” Skov told the team’s website. “It’s probably the best linebacking group in the country and in the NFL.”
Skov knows it’s going to be hard to make the opening-game roster, but is confident he can prove he belongs.
“I’m going to control what I can control and put myself in the best situation possible,” he said.