The 50 most important college players in Texas in 2017 — No. 41: Rice’s Samuel Stewart

AS THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON EDGES CLOSER, WE TAKE A LOOK AT THE MOST PIVOTAL PLAYERS FOR EACH PROGRAM'S RESPECTIVE SUCCESS.

The importance of a player is not always defined by their skill level. The most important player on a team or in a unit is not always the best player on a team. This list is designed to breakdown the 50 most important players in Texas college football for the 2017 season. It is not a ranking of the 50 best college football players in the state. Importance can be defined by position, need, skill or leadership. We’ll count down the list through the summer, all the way to No. 1.

Previously:
50 – Lamar DE Daniel Crosley / 49 – TCU WR KaVontae Turpin / 48 – UTEP QB Ryan Metz
47 – UMHB RB Markeith Miller / 46 – Sam Houston State DE PJ Hall / 45 – Baylor WR Blake Lynch
44 – Texas Tech WR Jonathan Giles (transferred) / 43 – Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton
42 – PVAMU WR Joshua Simmons

The History

Dating back to his time at Cypress Woods High School, Samuel Stewart has always been a big-time playmaker. His only problem has been staying healthy. He was a three-year letterman for coach Trent Faith and the Wildcats, racking up more than 2,700 total yards and 38 touchdowns in his career. After turning down a list of several power five offers, Stewart stayed close to home with the Owls.

After redshirting in 2014, Stewart exploded onto the scene in 2015 and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team. He finished the year with 685 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, but his biggest performance came on one of the bigger stages of the season for Rice. Stewart rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns against Texas, quickly making a name for himself as a redshirt freshman.

Despite appearing in just seven games last year as a sophomore, Stewart led the team in rushing while only getting 76 carries. He finished with 586 total yards and six touchdowns, but missed a lot of action in what was a rough year for the Owls.

The Skillset

Stewart isn’t the biggest back, and while he stands at just 5-foot-9, he is never afraid to put his head down and initiate contact. He is a solid runner between the tackles, but Stewart also brings the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. When healthy, he is a reliable runner and averaged more than six yards per carry last season. But Stewart has eclipsed 20 carries in a game once in his career – against Texas, back in 2015.

The Impact

Stewart missed a lot of time early in the season last year, when Rice got off to a really slow start. But when he rejoined the team against Southern Mississippi, the offense had a new spark. Stewart rushed for 132 yards and scored three touchdowns in that game, helping the Owls score more than 14 points for just the second time at that point in the season. He managed to lead the team in rushing despite playing in just five full games. While Darik Dillard was a capable weapon at times in the backfield, he is out of the picture after graduating. That leaves Austin Walter as the only other experienced option in the backfield, making Stewart’s health a priority in 2016. When he is on the field, the Rice offense is a completely different unit.

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Brady Keane is a Contributing Writer for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Follow him on Twitter: @BradyKeane.

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