Today was a big day for the future of Stanford football, with three of their key defenders taking to Twitter with some big news.

First, it was defensive end Ben Gardner:

Ben Gardner tweetThen inside linebacker Shayne Skov followed suit:

Shayne Skov tweetAnd last but definitely not least, outside linebacker Trent Murphy:

Trent Murphy tweet

Stanford’s defense finished its 2012 season as one of the strongest in the nation. The Cardinal’s season was capped beautifully with a Rose Bowl championship, but its signature win came over the Oregon Ducks, who they held to only 14 points in Eugene. Forget playing a role — Stanford’s defense was the reason for the victory, with the Ducks scoring 41 points less than they averaged. Kenjon Barner, who averaged 135.9 yards per game in 2012, only totaled 66 yards against the Cardinal. The three players who announced their return today were integral to that win, with Skov leading Stanford with seven tackles.

Stanford’s catch phrase this season was “party in the backfield,” and both Gardner and Murphy had their stake in it. Murphy had 10 sacks in 2012 and 18 tackles for loss to go with his total of 97. Gardner wasn’t much worse taking people down behind the line of scrimmage, with 7.5 sacks and 14.5 of his 43 tackles going for a loss.

Skov rebounded well from his 2011 injury with 72 tackles, 9.5 of which were for a loss. Where he lacked was rushing the passer — in 2010 he got to the quarterback 7.5 times, but the inside linebacker only had 2.5 sacks in 2012. Skov came on strong late in the season though, and he will be a key piece to Stanford’s ability to stop offenses next season, especially with Chase Thomas on his way to the NFL.

We will find out more about how next year’s team will look as more players announce their fates in the coming days. Stepfan Taylor is gone, with Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo likely going too. Even without them, an improved offense in Kevin Hogan’s second year and another fierce defense could have Stanford in serious conversations for a National Championship.