So does Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, who has praised his senior-to-be for his terrific spring and his total turnaround from the end of the season. While at the Big East spring meetings, I asked Jones what Stewart's potential is for 2012, especially with more responsibility on his shoulders.
"At this stage of the game, he’s probably the most focused individual I’ve been around in a long time from all aspects, from off the field and his leadership qualities, to on the field the demands of his teammates, demands of himself," Jones said. "He’s turned into a dynamic leader. Seeing the maturity level and the success that Derek Wolfe and John Hughes had last year has really propelled him to another level from his work ethic to his attitude to his conditioning to expectations, not only of himself but to his teammates. He’s really leading this football team right now."
Given the heavy losses Cincinnati suffered inside, with Wolfe and Hughes both being gone, I asked whether Stewart could potentially pick up some of their production even though he lines up on the outside.
"We need to have an edge presence to our defense," Jones said. "Walter has worked himself into that spot. But also depth is going to play a role. We like to rotate as many as eight to 10 defensive linemen. We had that luxury last year. Right now, we don’t have that luxury. We have a lot of individuals who have to take account for themselves, and really work themselves into being able to give us some quality snaps."