Through eight games, Stewart has been the Cowboys’ No. 1 option through the air, with a team leading 666 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 56 receptions – that’s twice as many as the next closest wide receiver (Charlie Moore, 28 receptions).
The result comes from two factors this season: a product of the Cowboys’ offense and Stewart’s maturity and growth as a player.
“I just try to keep my focus, keep working hard and doing the best that I could do,” Stewart said. “That’s really all I can say.”
Moore said he’s seen a change in Stewart over the past year that starts in practice. He believes Stewart’s work ethic paired with his love of the game has produced results. And his physical tools don’t hurt either.
“He’s got the shiftiness, the quickness, he’s just a good football player with the ball in his hands,” Moore said. “If you get him in open space, he’s tricky to tackle. That’s always the plan, to get him the ball in short yardage and get him the ball in some open space to let him run with it. More than likely, he’s going to break the first one or two tackles.”
Traditionally, slot receivers aren’t No. 1 options in a high-powered spread offense. Just imagine Josh Cooper leading the team in yardage last season. But in an offense with young talent at quarterback and no physically dominant wideouts, Stewart seems like a natural fit.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken compared Stewart’s role in OSU’s offense to that of West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, who might be the nation’s top inside wide receiver. He’s got 85 receptions, 889 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
“(Stewart's) a really good space player and we don’t really have a lot of great space players,” Monken said. “When you have a really good space player, you try to find as many ways that he can get that. Let’s say that every time we toss it, we’re tossing it to him – there’s a completion.
"Every time we’ve been running a tunnel screen so far, we’ve been running it to him – there’s a completion. A lot of times we’re running those quick screens, we’re running it to him. So when you build on that, there are all your extra catches.”
With two more years to develop in OSU’s system, there’s plenty of time for Stewart to improve his game. There have been times he’s let balls slip through his hands to opposing defensive backs that have hurt the Cowboys.
But Moore said you would never know by Stewart’s demeanor. It’s just his personality to take it in stride.
“He’s always smiling,” Moore said.