I recently had the pleasure of speaking with 2020 Michigan State football commit, Ian Stewart. The three-star wide receiver out of Oscar A. Carlson High School in Gibraltar, Michigan is our next feature in the Commitment Spotlight Series. Let’s get to know him.
Stewart verbally committed to Michigan State in mid-May, and is currently one of two wide receiver recruits in the Spartans’ 2020 class.
“The real reason I chose Michigan State was the home feeling I got (at MSU),” Stewart said. “Give or take, I live right up the street, so it gave me the opportunity to go up there more often, but even if I wasn’t close, it’s just a vibe (at MSU) with Coach Dantonio and the other coaches that draws you in. It’s just that family feeling you can’t get anywhere else.”
Of course, Stewart was speaking figuratively, as East Lansing is about a 100-mile trek from Gibraltar. Not quite right up the road, but in very close proximity for the standout athlete to get to campus and back as often as he needed. This allowed Stewart to form a bond with the MSU football program.
Still, Mark Dantonio and his staff had plenty of high-level competition from powerhouses and respected programs, including Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Kentucky, West Virginia, Purdue, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Boston College and many others. According to Rivals, Stewart accumulated nearly 30 offers total.
The recruiting process was an interesting one for the Carlson star. There is a lot that goes into that process that the average college football fan doesn’t realize. For Stewart, it was a mostly enjoyable experience, but he was thrilled to be able to put it behind him and focus on his senior year.
“You can say (the recruiting process) was exciting, stressful, cool, fun — you can put all of those words together, honestly,” he said. “It was just one of those things when I first started getting recruited and telling myself I wanted to go D-1 in football, I couldn’t have expected what happened. When September of last year hit, it was just like a movie. Every day I had coaches hitting me up. If it wasn’t the same school, it was a different school. It was an every day thing. To finally get that weight off my chest and be committed for my senior season, it just feels so good.”
Rivals ranks Stewart as the No. 32 athlete in the entire 2020 field, and the No. 14 player in the state of Michigan. Meanwhile, the 247Sports Composite has him as the No. 109 wide receiver, No. 21 player in Michigan and No. 634 nationally.
These are all admirable rankings, but they rarely tell the whole story about a player. Stewart has a chance to really make an impact at MSU and become the next great receiving threat in a long line of playmakers at the position.
What’s interesting is, Stewart isn’t your stereotypical wide out. He is from a physical standpoint, but he comes from the Wing-T offense that varies greatly from the more pro-style offense the Spartans run. In the Wing-T, teams are rarely throwing the ball downfield. According to Stewart, his team was only passing the ball two or three times per game on average in 2018.
Stewart was used in a variety of ways during his senior season, playing mostly quarterback for the Marauders, but also getting reps at wide receiver and running back. He was also an All-State Defense selection from the Detroit Free Press.
This year, Stewart expects to take less snaps at quarterback, and to get the ball in his hands more often in the open field. He also expects that head coach Jack Giarmo is going to open up the playbook this season, and throw the ball at a higher frequency. But getting the ball in Stewart’s hands by any means possible is going to be a priority, and Stewart has big goals, not just personally, but for his team.
“If you’re not from Michigan, or maybe even if you are, you may not know much about Carlson football,” he said. “I want to put my school on the map. I want to help lead us to a district title and a run in the playoffs. We’ve finished 8-2 the past two seasons, but maybe lost a game we weren’t supposed to in the playoffs -- and I don’t want that happen this year.”
While Stewart is excited to get to East Lansing, his high school team is his first priority right now, as it should be. Once his senior year is wrapped up and his high school career is over, though, then he can shift his focus.
“I just want to come in and be the best I can be,” Stewart said when asked about his goals as a freshman at MSU. “The coaches mentioned the possibility of early playing time, so I just want to come in and work out and earn my spot. Based on my high school, I already know that I won’t be enrolling early, but I feel like I’ll still be able to come in and compete right away when I arrive.”
There are a couple of interesting soundbites in the above quote. First, Stewart already knows that enrolling at Michigan State early is not going to be an option for him, and he’ll need to finish out his senior year at Carlson. Second, Coach Dantonio and wide receivers coach Don Treadwell have already spoken to Stewart about getting on the field early. With Darrell Stewart Jr. and Brandon Sowards graduating, and possibly (but hopefully not) Cody White declaring early for the NFL Draft, there are going to be spots that need to be filled in the receiving corps for the 2020 season. Jase Bowen, a 2019 wide receiver commit, also left the program early to pursue his professional baseball career.
We mentioned above that Stewart is coming from an offense that is run heavy and differs from MSU’s offense. However, Stewart is far from the first college athlete coming from a Wing-T offense, and he doesn’t expect to be behind the learning curve.
“I think it will be easy for me to make the transition,” Stewart said. “I’ve been training as a wide receiver all summer and have a good feel for it. Before the (current) coach at Carlson got here, I lined up all year long at wide receiver as a freshman and our offense incorporated more of the pro-style concepts that MSU runs. Plus this year, Coach (Giarmo) plans to use me more as a wide receiver. I understand the position well. My mentality is there is no room for error, but always room for improvement.”
At 6-feet-3-inches tall, and 200 pounds, Stewart is a big-bodied wide receiver who has a wide catch radius and who can win jump balls. He is also a supreme athlete who sees the field well. While he is a dynamic playmaker, he’s not quite satisfied yet, and knows there are elements of his game he wants to work on before arriving to campus.
“As a wide receiver specifically, I just think my size at 6-foot-3 is a big part of my game. My size, athleticism and feel for the game are what really sets me apart,” he said. “After talking with some of my friends who play college football, what I plan to work on this year and what I really want to focus on is my route-running and making sure my routes are as crisp as they can be.”
Stewart is a well-rounded athlete. He also plays basketball and runs tracks for Carlson. He believes that being able to train in various disciplines during the entire year truly betters his play on the gridiron.
“Track helps with speed training and just helps me to get faster,” Stewart said. “Basketball is a little bit different because if you’re in basketball shape, you’re in shape for anything. There’s so much running back-and-forth and side-to-side that it really conditions me for anything. So both sports definitely help with football.”
A lot of players have a person they look up to: a family member, fellow athlete, friend or mentor. In Stewart’s case, he doesn’t necessarily have that one person, but he wants to build his legacy and assume that role for somebody else.
“You know, I always say that I don’t have a particular role model, but what I strive for is for somebody to one day say ‘I want to be like Ian Stewart.’ I want to be that role model for somebody and that’s what I am working toward every day just by being the best version of myself I can be.”
As far as the 2019 season goes for Michigan State, Stewart whole-heartedly believes in the changes Dantonio has made to the coaching staff and is excited about the healthier personnel on offense. He expects Michigan State to turn things around and have a great season.
One last thing Stewart wanted to leave us with:
“I can’t wait to come to East Lansing and get to work!”