Final spring practice weird feeling for Stewart

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, April 4, 2019
Deon Stewart, Arkansas wide receiver, drills Friday, March 1, 2019, during Arkansas spring practice in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Deon Stewart, Arkansas wide receiver, drills Friday, March 1, 2019, during Arkansas spring practice in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Deon Stewart found himself reminiscing a bit at Arkansas' spring practice on Thursday.

The soon-to-be fifth-year senior finished the final legitimate spring practice of his college career ahead of the Razorbacks' annual Red-White spring game on Saturday at 3 p.m. All went well, he said, but at the same time it was a weird feeling.

Stewart confided Thursday in support staffer John Roberts, who's in charge of quality control on defense but helped coach receivers during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The two talked about the journey they've both been on since 2015.

"He was here when I was a freshman, so he's been with me all along," Stewart said. "It seems like yesterday it was my first day, and now five years later I'm a senior and this is my last year to show what I can do. It's kind of crazy.

"They've got me out here feeling kind of old."

As a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Stewart finished second on the team in catches (33), receiving yards (404) and touchdowns (3), but totaled only 178 yards and failed to reach the end zone in Arkansas' 2-10 season last fall. He has flown under the radar this spring, but personally feels he's strung together productive days over the last month-plus.

This spring, receivers coach Justin Stepp had his room write down three things they aimed to improve upon individually, and getting off press coverage at the top of routes was No. 1 for Stewart.

"Coming into spring I was a little rusty with if the DBs try to come up and press me, but throughout spring ball I feel like I've gotten better with that," he said. "I would say that's the main thing I tried to focus on. ... I tend to have this bad habit (of not creating space) and I'm trying to break it."

While Stewart, an Arkansas native, is obviously still adamant about improving on-field production, he said he's also proud of the fact he's matured as a person in his time at Arkansas. That much is evident even to Highland High School football coach Adam Carter.

"He told me last time I was home, he was like, 'It's crazy how much you've matured from when you first got up there.' I'm totally different," Stewart said. "I know that there's time to have fun, but you also have to know when to lock in and stuff. I try to teach that to some of the younger guys because you can't always just joke around.

"You've got to know when to put your head down, go to work and lock in."

Heading into his final spring game, Stewart is full-go and eager to put on a show for fans who've not seen the Razorbacks on the field since the final loss in 2018 - a 38-0 clunker in the rain at Missouri in November. Aside from an in-grown toenail on his left foot, he's been able to remain healthy this spring, unlike many on the roster.

"I definitely feel like (this has been) my best spring," he added. "And I definitely feel like the offense is better than it was at the end of 2018, but we've still got a lot of stuff to put in and I'm sure we'll take care of that in the summer and fall camp."

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