FCS: North Dakota preps for Utah opener
UND defensive coordinator Eric Schmidt watched junior college transfer Tamas Stewart's highlight film and was instantly intrigued.
"It was exactly what we look for in safeties," Schmidt said.
RELATED: FCS Coaches Poll
The UND football team successfully wooed Stewart to play for the Fighting Hawks, but the California native came to campus with an injury. He wasn't able to practice last spring and when this fall came around Stewart was still wearing a no-contact red jersey at Memorial Stadium.
As No. 8-ranked UND begins preparation for Utah in the 2017 season opener on Thursday in Salt Lake City, Stewart was finally cleared last week by doctors to practice full-go.
"I feel like I'm 100 percent," Stewart said.
Stewart is currently listed as a backup safety, behind starters Cole Reyes and Chuck Flowers. But UND's coaches still aren't 100 percent sure what kind of production to expect from Stewart, who hasn't been able to participate in most live situations while in Grand Forks.
"One thing you'll see is he's real downhill," Schmidt said. "He's physical and we like the way he runs the alley. He still needs to learn our system, but he's a bigger, rangier kid who can play physical."
Stewart, who's 6-foot, 195 pounds, is excited for his first NCAA game. He started his career at Sacramento State, where he redshirted as a true freshman.
As a redshirt freshman in Sacramento, Stewart hurt his back and missed the entire season.
"I wasn't liking how things were so I went to juco and played one season," Stewart said.
So Stewart went to Chaffey College in California, where he had 43 tackles and four pass break-ups in 10 games.
Out of Chaffey, Stewart picked UND over an offer from Stephen F. Austin.
Stewart's athleticism has stood out during UND's fall camp, but the Fighting Hawks' complicated defense takes time to understand.
"Doing what we're doing right now and getting live reps will be two different things," Schmidt said. "But what we've seen, we've liked."
Said Stewart: "I'm not going to lie, it's a hard defense to learn. I wish I would've been able to practice in the spring because I would have had a better grasp."
This article is written by Tom Miller from Grand Forks Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.