With some of our readers asking for more film evaluation in this year's recruiting coverage, and my giant need to be accepted, I started a new line of articles titled "Target Evaluations", in which I evaluate some of the Seminoles top prospect targets for the 2011 recruiting cycle. This is a stark contrast to the objective story that MattDNole wrote yesterday, as it is entirely subjective. The series started with a personal favorite, Giorgio Newberry.
The second installment of the series will continue this week with LB target Tony Steward from Menendez High School in St. Augustine, FL. FSU is in line to take 2-3 LBs this cycle, because they lose Kendall Smith who is a senior, and many believe that there is a high probability Nigel Bradham makes the jump to the NFL. The Noles already have one current LB committed in likely 4* Terrance Smith out of Georgia. While Smith is an excellent player, he is considered an outside LB prospect and needs to add bulk. Florida State, in its quest to become a team that meets the size/speed ratio needed to play bigtime football also needs to recruit big players from the front 7. Tony Steward is believed to be the top LB on the board for FSU, and is the prototype LB that coach Hudson talks about when he says at FSU "you dont have to give anything away, with the guys you recruit."
Projected Position: Mike LB
I want to get a few things out of the way first. I try to be as honest as possible with my evaluations as possible, and always like to include players weaknesses. I wrote extensively about Luc's struggles in agility drills when i watched him last year, however this is going to be one of the most positive I ever write. The other is that our watch list didn't do Steward justice because, well, I hadn't seen enough of him.
Steward to many is known as a Jeff Luc type player because of his size, and my comments will mirror that of Newberry in this regard. He is already physically mature and has a frame that can play big and fast at the next level. It is almost like Jimbo has changed the type of player he is recruiting to be larger on average or something. However, I think the similarities between Luc and Steward are limited, outside the fact that they are both excellent linebackers. Luc is a Mike, Steward projects at Mike but can play all three linebacker spots with ease. When watching Tony the first thing that pops out to me is that he seems to understand gap responsibility. He is not the type of player who attacks the ball with reckless abandon, or overruns plays because he is a "playmaker." He plays his position, and I really love that about him. He takes great angles. Tremendous at not getting blocked. That is a skill.
When it comes to the point of attack, once he has sniffed out the play, he is extremely physical (which leads to much of the Luc comparisons I am sure). He is a sure tackler and he blows up oncoming blockers as well. However, we have to understand that at the High School level he is playing much bigger and faster (more momentum) than everybody else on the field pretty much. Some of that is marginalized at the next level. His tackling ability is well above average though.
The thing that sets Steward apart for me though is his effort when he is in coverage. He bends low to high extremely well, almost like a safety. Plays low with a good center of gravity and diagnoses. He has, for his size, an excellent backpedal and excels already as a coverage LB which can be a problem for some large LBs. He displays great speed given his competition level. Also, he shifts left to right much better than most linebackers his size who are stiff. However, the speed often makes up for taking bad angles or tackling routes (but his routes are great). His athleticism (which is elite) makes up for the fact that he occasionally runs around areas and shoots too deep when going after the ball holder. This takes teaching at the next level.It is rare that a HS coach will coach something like this as long as the player is within their system. I also have a friend in St. Augustine that I trust and he says Steward is streaky within games, which elite players usually aren't.
Steward displays above average strength, speed, athleticism, diagnostic ability, and tackling. He is also considered above average as far as size goes. I believe that he is the top linebacker in the country, and if I redid the watch list he would be top 5 in the state no doubt. He has an absolute elite offer list, numbering almost every ACC and SEC school. While he has traveled to FSU a few times he is still open to multiple schools, including FSU, UF, Bama, and Clemson.