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With excellent speed, JoVanni Stewart has the ability to run with receivers in the passing-rich Big 12 conference. He can turn and run donwfield, and also closes well when the ball is in the air. He's also surprisingly effective closer to the line of scrimmage, where Katy deployed him at times during his senior season. He disrupts plays in opposing backfields, and is relentless in pursuit, showing the ability to chase down plays away from his side of the field. He's also excellent at staying alive while the ball is in play, and has multiple highlights where he not only forces a fumble but also scoops it up to return it for extra yardage.
These abilities could allow WVU to use him as a cornerback blitzer in regular pass defenses, or from a slot defender role when the Mountaineers add extra defensive backs in long yardage situations.
While West Virginia Mountaineers isn't going to fill its roster with Texas and Oklahoma players, it's still good when the Mountaineers can get some from the Big 12's traditional footprint. There's always the balance of cost vs. return on investment here, but if WVU can get 4-5 players from this region, as well as mine the talent-rich Jayhawk Conference for junior college players, that keeps it more closely connected in the area where it plays four or five games per year.
The first, and the one that probably kept him from more offers, was his height. Standing just 5-9, Stewart will be at a disadvantage in one-on-one jump ball situations. He'll have to offset that with good positioning and by timing hits to break up passes. WVU coaches also obviously hope he brings the same competitive nature that fueled another undersized Katy product, Jordan Thompson, during his days at WVU.
The twin to “undersized” is “not enough offers”, and Stewart was on the short end of that metric as well. He had offers from all three service academies as well as New Mexico State and UTEP, and grabbed a handful more from non-Power Five schools during the last month of the recruiting process, but WVU was certainly his best offer. Whether he was overlooked because of his size or something else, those that measure the quality of a player solely by his offer sheet will find an issue here.
Stewart's recruitment was definitely an under the radar process, but West Virginia stayed in touch with hm throughout the season and landed his commitment during his visit to campus. That long-term relationship certainly helped the Mountaineers, but Stewart will have to show that he's capable of competing in the strength category with receivers that will hold a distinct size advantage over him. Still, Stewart has a lot of pluses on his ledger, including those offers from service academies. They show his dedication to academics as well as football, and hints at his ability to be able to learn new things and adapt quickly.
Stewart shouldn't be counted on as a first-year contributor, and will likely spend a year or two preparing himself for significant action. However, if he follows the path that Thompson forged, he could wind up being a solid player for the Mountaineer program down the road. He could also forge a path to earlier playing time via a spot on long-yardage defensive packages.