Three of the players who epitomized Stanford's #partyinthebackfield mantra on defense in 2012 announced Saturday that they would return for fifth years on The Farm.
Defensive end Ben Gardner inside linebacker Shayne Skov, and outside linebacker Trent Murphy Tweeted their intentions to take advantage of their remaining college eligibility. Gardner and Murphy are eligible for fifth years after redshirting his true freshman season; Skov due to the devastating knee injury he suffered early in the 2011 season.
Gardner was the first to announce his return, doing so shortly after noon.
For those who are wondering, I'll be back at #StanU for my 5th year and another big #partyinthebackfield ...got that crystal ball on my mind
The trio's decision to play another year on The Farm is a huge boost to a unit that should be considered among the five best in the nation heading into 2013. The Cardinal will return all of the major players on its defense except for outside linebacker Chase Thomas and nose tackle Terrence Stephens, who missed the season's final three games with eligibility issues.
With Skov, Murphy and Gardner making their intensions known, 2013 Stanford NFL Draft watch is now down to two main players: tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz, though Terrence Brown might also consider departing early for the NFL. The best guess is that both Toilolo and Ertz will declare for the draft, there is some thought that Ertz might feel compelled to stay and make a run at the national title.