CLEMSON – When Tony Steward signed with Clemson in 2011, Dabo Swinney, Jeff Scott and Clemson Nation celebrated. He was a five-star talent, a franchise-type linebacker, who was expected to provide an immediate impact and perhaps return Clemson to Linebacker U status.
Instead he has been plagued with injury issues, and was curiously not redshirted in either 2011 or 2012. As a result he has played just 109 career snaps from scrimmage while having only two years of eligibility remaining.
It’s hard to believe Steward has only two seasons left and has not started a game at Clemson.
I’m not sure if Dabo Swinney wanted to play Steward last season – he defended the decision saying his special teams role was significant – or if was Steward and his family demanded he play. But to many on message boards, talk radio and in the media, the decision to play seemed questionable at the time. Steward had back-to-back ACL tears in 2010 and 2011. It seems unlikely he was mentally and physically at 100 percent to begin last season.
But all that’s in the past, and this post isn’t meant rehash that decision – it’s meant to bring up a new question: should Steward redshirt this season?
(Disclaimer: this probably has no chance of happening)
Steward is tired of waiting. He told us after practice tonight he feels “100 percent” and that his explosiveness is back. He admitted he’s still doing more thinking that reacting in Brent Venables’ defense, though.
But consider this, if you’re Clemson you don’t get many five-star talents walking on campus. You only have two years left of Tony Steward’s services – but you do have a redshirt in your pocket. He’s working as a second-team linebacker at the moment at a deep position. Steward has missed a lot of game reps, particularly from scrimmage. He can probably be a better player in 2015 than he can be in 2014.
Should Steward redshirt?
If he’s not going to clearly win a job this spring or summer, if he’s not clearly the best option entering UGA week, I think redshirting Steward is not such a crazy idea.
What if 2015 could be an All-American season? And what if 2014 (and perhaps 2013) would simply be an above-average seasons? Reps matter. Steward can either spend three more years on campus, or two.
I think one thing we have learned is it is better to be conservative with recovery times from injuries. It’s unlikely Steward was really 100 percent physically last August. What’s also clear is five-star talents are rare and if I’m Clemson I want to think long and hard about how to maximize Steward’s remaining two years of playing time.