Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stewart on task

Richard Anderson photo
Redshirt freshman receiver Brandon Stewart looks to make some big contributions for the Cowboys this fall.
Stewart soaking in the knowledge
by Richard Anderson

It took a while for Wyoming redshirt freshman wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Stewart to leave the field Wednesday after practice in the IPF.

He wasn’t hurting; he wasn’t being chewed out; he wasn’t running extra. Stewart was soaking in all he could from senior receiver Chris Johnson and graduate assistant and former Cowboy great Jovon Bouknight. As all three were finally calling it a day, both Bouknight and Johnson were demonstrating Stewart moves on the walk.

The way Stewart sees it, if Jovon Bouknight talks, he listens.

“They have been helping me a lot, coaching me up on the things that I have been doing wrong,” Stewart said. “I can do the stuff pretty good, but I still make fundamental mistakes that they want to build my technique on. They give me coaching points all of the time and tell me what I can do to improve my game. If I’m going to get on the field, I have to listen to them. I can’t keep doing my own thing.”

Stewart’s thing will get him on the field in his rookie season with the Cowboys, whether it is at the inside receiver position or as a kick returner. Stewart will go into fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart as a punt returner, replacing the ever popular Hoost Marsh.
Wyoming coach Joe Glenn said he is “way fired up” about Stewart.

“You just wait, we got one here. This guy is money,” Glenn said. “He’s our number one punt returner and he’ll do some kickoff returning. He’s a slot receiver, a playmaker. He’s got good hands and good speed and he’s strong … he’s a good, strong runner when he gets the ball.”

At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, Stewart probably won’t win a foot race with Wyoming speedsters Donate Morgan, Johnson or running back Devin Moore. But he’s no slouch in the speed department. What makes him a tough cover could be his overall quickness, his ability to make defenders miss.

“In high school, you are basically faster than anybody on the field,” Stewart said. “When you come to college, a lot of people have my speed or are faster than me. I have to rely on other things, like my quicks. I have to be able to make a move on them and read their leverage. There are so many different components that you just can’t run by everybody. You have to work on your footwork and your technique.”

Quickness, Stewart said, is side-to-side movement. Surprisingly, he said that wasn’t always his strength.

“I am getting better. C.J. (Johnson) has been helping me out with that, on my quickness, like shaking people,” he said. “Speed is just like straight sprint speed; that’s how I refer to it.”

Despite his redshirt year, Stewart was listed No. 2 at the inside receiver position behind sophomore David Leonard heading into spring dills.

“We have two big inside receivers who I am pretty sure that they will get in a lot. If it comes to a play where we need speed, a motion play, a fly or option play, that will be more when I am in,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s versatility might get him on the field more than he anticipates.

“He’s in the top three of our receiving corps right now, maybe in the top two. He’s right there,” Glenn said. “He’s just a freshman. He’s quick, but when people try to jam him, mug him up, he’s real strong. He’s sneaky fast. He can catch with the guy hanging on him a little bit because they do that to each other in practice.”

That redshirt season was beneficial for Stewart, like redshirts are meant to be. He said he was able to watch and learn and then get better.

Stewart said he was a little nervous last year and not sure what he was supposed to do at times. When he finally got on the scout team, he was able to turn things around.

“I could work on my footwork and my techniques while I was on the scout team, with no pressure,“ he said. “Now this year, I can actually apply it to what I am doing.”

Stewart is using his speed, quickness and good hands to his advantage as a kick returner. Glenn said he has been the best punt returner in camp.

“He’s really sure handed, he never misses a punt. That’s serious stuff right there too; he never lets (the football) hit the ground,” Glenn said.

Like most young student athletes, Stewart is picking up momentum in the classroom as well. A city boy from Evansville, Ind., Stewart is enjoying Wyoming’s outdoor wonders. He’s now leaning towards majoring in zoology.

His goal: To work in a zoo.

“I know some people might think that sounds dumb, but I think it will be fun,” he said. “You want a job that you love. I love animals.”

Stewart said he is going to bring his dog, a Husky, out to Laramie this summer. Now that he has learned to enjoy the outdoors, he wants his dog to do the same.

“I’m from a big city and it’s like five feet between each house, so you don’t have a lot of room for animals. But here, you can go out in a field and things like that,” Stewart said.

In his short stay at Wyoming, Stewart said he has hiked in the Snowies, rode horseback, snowboarded, and he even thinks he discovered mountain lion tracks.

“I’ve been able to do everything I can’t do in Evansville,” he said.

What he is most proud of is seeing a bald eagle.

“That’s amazing to me. I was shocked. All we have are pigeons and crows,” Stewart said, causing a nearby Glenn to break out laughing.

In his short stay at Wyoming, Stewart has shown all of the moves, on and off the field.

“The guy is on task,” Glenn said.

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