Brian Stewart, who was introduced as Maryland’s new defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Tuesday, plans to install an aggressive 3-4 defense to combat the up-tempo spread offenses that continue to proliferate the college football landscape.
“We’re a pressure defense, a defense that is disciplined, we’re smart and we’re fast,” Stewart said in a teleconference Tuesday. “All those things should help us attack the quarterback, get tackles for loss, attack the ball in the air. Keep on attacking the offense. Nowadays, with the spread offense, offenses are really taking it to the defenses, just keep on tempo-ing you, so you have to get tackles for loss and takeaways to balance that off.”
Stewart said that the past two seasons have been instructive because he faced an increasing number of capable spread offenses throughout Conference USA as defensive coordinator at the University of Houston.
“I have gotten a lot better,” Stewart said. “I have gotten a lot better.”
The Cougars ranked in the top 15 nationally in five categories: red-zone scoring (second — 67 percent); interceptions (tied for third — 21), tackles for loss (sixth — 7.7 per game); turnovers gained (tied for 10th — 31) and opponent passing efficiency (12th — 111.75 rating).
Maryland Coach Randy Edsall said the defense will resemble “what you saw out of the Houston Texans schematically versus the Baltimore Ravens” in Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff game.
“People will have a tough time discerning who is coming [on blitzes] and who is not coming,” Edsall said.
Current Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was the head coach of the Cowboys while Stewart was the defensive coordinator with them in 2007 and 2008, when Stewart guided the Cowboys to two top 10 rankings in fewest yards allowed.
In a statement released by Maryland, Phillips called Stewart “one of the bright defensive minds in the game today. I know that Maryland is lucky to have him.”
Edsall said the defensive scheme fits “very, very well” with the personnel Maryland has and, generally speaking, with the personnel the Terrapins plan to add through recruiting this year.
Stewart replaced Todd Bradford, who in his only season presided over an injury-plagued defense ranked 110th in rushing defense, 108th in total defense and 103rd in scoring defense. The Terrapins will return several key players, most notably second-team all-American defensive lineman Joe Vellano and linebacker Kenny Tate.
When asked why Stewart wanted this particular job, the 47-year-old said: “First and foremost it was just Coach Edsall and watching his career and being a man of integrity and doing the things he has done on the football field. I thought that Kevin Anderson, the athletic director, he wanted the kids to be superstars in life, not just on the football field, not just in the classroom. He wanted them to be a total package. . . . Those two people, as well as an attractive campus and BCS conference, those were the most attractive factors.”
Stewart will begin recruiting Wednesday, Edsall said. Stewart is expected to oversee recruiting efforts in Northern Virginia and in Florida.
After replacing both coordinators this offseason — Mike Locksley replaced Gary Crowton, as well — Edsall said he does not anticipate any more changes to the staff before the 2012 season.