Spring football notebook: Stewart makes strong early impression in multiple ways

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Kansas freshman Harry Stewart III during the first day of spring practice at the practice field on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in Lawrence.

The physical tools are certainly in place for Kansas running back Harry Stewart III.

The early-enrolling freshman from Frisco, Texas, is listed at 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, but that doesn’t tell the whole story; strength coach Matt Gildersleeve said last week, speaking to Stewart’s immediate readiness for KU’s strength program, “His calves are bigger than my thighs and his thighs are bigger than my waist.”

Running backs coach Jonathan Wallace noted Thursday that finding players who are immediately “physically capable” has been a priority for the coaching staff, and “something that coach (Lance) Leipold’s pushed us on as well in recruiting.” And indeed, Wallace said that in the first few weeks Stewart was on campus, he was among the top finishers in a set of flying 10s — 10-yard sprints from a running start — that Gildersleeve conducted.

However, the key quality that Wallace says make Stewart “almost like Devin Neal all over again” is what he does off the field.

“You’re talking about somebody that calls you at night asking questions, right, wanting to talk over film,” Wallace said. “… Just the demeanor, the ‘want to.’ I’m really fired up about Harry and really all the guys, but he’s really put in a lot of work up to this point.”

Stewart was a three-star prospect out of Centennial High School, ranked as Rivals’ No. 43 running back in the country, who committed to KU back in June and seven months later was one of six freshmen — including fellow running back Red Martel — to enroll early.

“Those guys (have) been working hard, really trying to get caught up with all the other guys, not overloading them too much, letting them breathe, allowing them to play fast, give them some simple tips here and there,” Wallace said of Stewart and Martel, “and a lot of just watching and seeing what the older guys are doing as they get reps.”


Leipold had previously said the team would seek a medical waiver to get an extra year of eligibility back for defensive lineman Ronald McGee, who suffered a season-ending injury in practice prior to the start of last year. Leipold didn’t make a definitive statement on the waiver when asked Tuesday, although the team has McGee listed on the roster for what would be a seventh season of college football.

“I believe we’re in a good spot for that,” Leipold said. “The problem is, we knew the severity of it, spring was not an option.”

McGee was previously a defensive tackle for KU, and also at Buffalo when Leipold originally recruited him, but the staff sees his value outside.

“He was showing signs there at defensive end (of) being able to help us,” Leipold said. “The guy can also move inside on pass-rush situations. So we need Ron. Hopefully we’ll get him back here by summer.”

The Jayhawks could use the depth at defensive end, one of their thinner positions currently.

Leipold had also previously mentioned the prospect of a waiver for offensive tackle Logan Brown, who had season-ending surgery early last year (although he retains some eligibility either way). That possible waiver didn’t come up in the McGee discussion, but Leipold did mention Brown’s offseason progress.

“We got to be smart with him and Bryce (Cabeldue) and many others in that group that have been out with injuries, but he’s done more than I thought he’d do,” Leipold said. “We had shut him down pretty early, and now we got a new position coach (Daryl Agpalsa) … but again I think he’s moving confidently. He’s so darn athletic and he’s starting to put it together, and it’s been good so far.”

Brown could be a candidate to start or see significant time at tackle next season, following Dominick Puni’s graduation.


The sidelines at Tuesday’s practice featured a variety of visitors sporting familiar logos, as coaches from nearby Washburn, as well as Leipold’s former school Wisconsin-Whitewater, were on hand to observe the Jayhawks.

“We’ve always kind of tried to be as open as we can for high school staffs and local colleges, or visiting colleges from wherever,” Leipold said.

He said that visiting coaches could have the chance to learn more about details of KU’s scheme or its practice plans.

“They may stay a couple days and try and get routines and do some of their own film study in other ways, and hopefully there’s one or two things that they grab that make their programs better,” Leipold said. “Because I know many of us learned the same way.”

In-state recruiting

Linebackers coach Chris Simpson has gained a lot of traction in recent years recruiting players to KU from the Detroit area.

“When you go and hit the streets, so to speak, and get in and out of those buildings, there’s a little bit more name recognition,” he said. “It’s not an afterthought, because I think Kansas probably was, not just in Michigan but probably in a lot of places, and I think people are actually starting to take us a little bit more seriously like it’s a viable option.”

The big problem, he said, remains within the state of Kansas, where people “know too much” about the program’s past.

“They know the history,” Simpson said. “We’re trying to change that history, and I think we are, so now we got to capitalize on some of the guys within the state of Kansas. Again, I don’t have a recruiting area in the state, but there’s guys in the state that I’m actively trying to recruit that we have to be able to get over the top of some of those guys.”


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