Stewart doesn't think that the talent in last year's class was bad, and makes sure to point that fact out. He simply believes that having the additional time to get to know players helped the Mountaineer coaching staff make better decisions and be more selective in the players they eventually offered and signed.
"It's not that the players were that much better this year than last year, it's just that we found them earlier and targeted them and were able to build a relationship with them. It's all about building relationships," said Stewart, whose outgoing and direct personality obviously helps in that area.
"If you can build a relationship with a player starting on junior day, then get them to come to camp, then come to a game in the fall, it makes all the difference in the world, and that's what we were able to do this year.
"We had some great players sign last year, but we were a whole lot more selective this year. We turned away some good players this year, and that's a shame, but we had a lot of good players we were recruiting. But things turned out really well."
Stewart also noted that the impetus to get players committed has ratcheted up the pressure in the recruiting game. WVU has taken some shots recently for not signing more instate players in the last two classes, but Stewart contends that it's not for lack of trying.
"There's nine coaches on the road recruiting, Stewart said. "We're looking at players everywhere. What makes it tough for Rich is that he has to pick between all the players we see. Recruiting has changed. It's not a slap at anybody, but we can't wait. If you have other good players waiting, you can't wait on someone else to make up their minds. You have to go with the guys that want to be Mountaineers."
Stewart also talked about some of the changes in the types of players WVU, as well as most other schools, are recruiting.
"The day of strong safeties are over in recruiting, unless they are just 'all world'. It's the same with guards on the offensive line. What we do mostly now is look for corners. We'll try them at cornerback, and then move them back to free safety if they can't quite get it done at corner.
"The same is true of free safeties. We'll still recruit free safeties, and if they can't cover the field quite as well as they need to, we move them down to spur or bandit.
"Offensive line is the same story. We don't recruit many guards, unless the guy is just an absolute road-grader. We look for tackles and centers. If a guy's not quite quick enough to play tackle, then we move him in to guard. We're looking for big frames and speed."
All in all, Stewart was pleased with the job he and his fellow coaches did, and is looking forward to winning more battles in the future.
"It's been a great recruiting year - it might not be an A+, but it's somewhere in that A bracket. (WVU recruiting coordinator) Herb Hand directed an assault this year. We saturated West Virginia and the adjoining states, and I think we got some great players. The coaching staff did an outstanding job. We went head to head with some great schools, and we only missed out on a handful."