(Relatively) Old Man Stew

IrishEyes offers its Pre-Camp Assessment of 5th-year senior guard Chris Stewart.

Football fans mark time differently than most. Perhaps that's why when a 23-year-old law student repeatedly uses phrases such as "I'm so old" or "as the oldest guy on the team…by far" we can somehow relate.

In football parlance, we can mark Chris Stewart's early entry into the University of Notre Dame in January 2006 as two eras removed from the present.

He joined at the peak of the Charlie Weis era, when the team was a month removed from a BCS loss and 9th place finish in the final A.P. Poll. One year later, he earned his keep on the practice fields during the culmination of that era: another BCS loss and an exodus of the players that made Weis' two-year run a success.

Stewart then survived the second and defining Weis era – a 16-loss, 21-win march that led to his third era – the Brian Kelly era – which will serve as the final gridiron chapter in Stewart's five-season, 11-semester run at the University.

It will likewise include the dawn of an unprecedented Era No. 4: Stewart's law school career under the Dome.

AOL Fanhouse writer and Notre Dame graduate John Walters noted in a recent column that Notre Dame Law School has never had an active football (or basketball) player among its ranks.

Stewart embarks on that endeavor this fall and eventually pursue an NFL career, likely putting his second semester of Law School on hold (for 1, 5, or 10-plus years).

But before Stewart becomes the world's most imposing lawyer, the relative graybeard from Spring, Texas knows work remains for him and for his Irish teammates.

Stewart's 2010 Season Outlook

While a handful of Irish linemen scuttled between positions during Kelly's first spring practice, Stewart remained entrenched at left guard, the position he manned ably last season, earning a spot in this website's Top 10 player list at season's end. (Recognition which ranks somewhere between the Lombardi Award and Heisman Trophy in terms of prestige, I'm sure you'll agree...)

Stewart is confident he can perform elsewhere if needed.

"You still have to be ready to jump," he noted of his familiarity with left guard. "As long as you know the concepts on the line and know what the play is, you can be ready to play almost any position (in a pinch)."

Always ready to lend a hand, Stewart offered valuable advice to a quintet of early enrollees during their adjustment period to college life.

"The biggest perspective I brought is ‘hey, it's spring ball. It's time to get better, time to clean up some things.'

"The thing is, you're always going to have pressure from the coaches and urgency, but you have to keep in your mind that the season is a bit away, so you have time to get comfortable and adjust. When the season does come, you have to play your best."

Stewart was at his best last season as a drive blocker in short-yardage situations (Jimmy Clausen executed nearly every quarterback sneak over the left side) and as a vastly improved pulling guard in space, both in the screen game and finding linebackers at the second level.

After 25 consecutive games toiling in the trenches for a .500 football team, Stewart welcomes both his role as a voice for the team and the breath of fresh air that a new regime brings.

"I'm really excited to see it click," Stewart offered of the new offense. "Every time you have a change it's going to take time but I'm very excited. I think we're going to do some very good things this year."

Chances are his teammates will follow his lead – when Notre Dame's old man speaks, people tend to listen.

Stewart at his best in 2009

  • Nevada: The best screen pass of the season, a 26-yarder down the left sideline for Armando Allen, is made possible by a downfield block from Stewart who squared up to stone a potential tackler in front of Allen.
  • Michigan State: Consecutive 3rd Quarter first downs were gained behind Stewart, one on a sneak by QB Jimmy Clausen, the second a 3rd and 3 hammering run by Allen, who followed dominant blocks by Stewart and left tackle Paul Duncan to move the chains.
  • Purdue: At his best in pass protection: Stewart finished his assigned first block then chipped a second defender (after Kyle Rudolph slipped out in pass protection) to allow a Jimmy Clausen time for a 23-yard check-down pass to Jonas Gray.
  • Washington: Stewart threw the key block on the team's longest rush from scrimmage of the season, pulling from his right guard spot to blow open a hole on a 37-yard gain by Robert Hughes.
  • UConn: Three blocks/two snaps: Armando Allen gained 8 yards on a draw up the middle with Stewart first supplying power at the point of attack, then releasing to hit the linebacker at the second level. On the next play, Allen followed fullback Bobby Burger over left tackle for a gain of 16 yards thanks to a strong seal blocks by left tackle Paul Duncan and by Stewart, who buried his man inside.

Stewart's moments to forget from 2009

  • Purdue: Late in the 2nd Quarter, Stewart appeared to miss an assignment in blitz pickup and LB Joe Holland pressured Clausen into a throw-away on 3rd and 5, forcing an Irish punt.
  • USC: On the first drive of the 3rd Quarter, FB James Aldridge is stacked up on 4th and 1 as Stewart (and C Eric Olsen) are submarined and rendered ineffective by Trojans DT Jurrell Casey ("Low man wins" scenario.) Later, Stewart erred badly in his assignment, leaving Armand Armstead unblocked to force a Clausen into a throw-away on 2nd and 3 with under 3:00 remaining in the contest.
  • Pittsburgh: Trailing 20-9 late in the third quarter, Allen is limited to one yard on 3rd and 2 as both Paul Duncan and Stewart are victimized by DE Greg Romeus' backfield penetration (in fairness, Romeus might have been offsides).
  • UConn: Leading 17-10 late in the 3rd Quarter, Allen is stuffed for no gain as Stewart gets stacked up at the line and the Irish are forced to punt.

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