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Maryland finalizing deal with Kevin Steele to become defensive coordinator

Maryland Coach Michael Locksley will have his third defensive coordinator in four season once the Terrapins complete a deal for Kevin Steele. (Scott Taetsch/For The Washington Post)
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Update: Kevin Steele backed out of the verbal agreement with Maryland and is set to become Miami’s defensive coordinator.

The University of Maryland is finalizing a deal with Kevin Steele to become the football program’s next defensive coordinator, a person familiar with the situation said Friday night. Steele has previously led the defenses at Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Auburn.

Steele is expected to take over for Brian Stewart, who led the Terps’ defense through a difficult 2021 season. Coach Michael Locksley hired Stewart last year, and the Terps’ ranked 13th of 14 teams in the Big Ten in scoring defense, giving up 30.7 points per game. The Terps were 12th in the league with 404.3 yards allowed per game and struggled to contain some of the conference’s best teams. In four games, all losses, Maryland allowed at least 40 points.

In the regular season finale against Rutgers, when Maryland needed to win to become bowl eligible, Locksley had co-defensive coordinator Brian Williams call plays. After the win, Williams held onto that role for the bowl game against Virginia Tech. The Terps finished 7-6, the team’s best record during Locksley’s tenure, but they leaned mostly on their prolific offense.

The move for Steele was first reported by ESPN.

Locksley has now had three defensive coordinators heading into what will be his fourth season at the Terps’ helm. Jon Hoke had the job in 2019 and 2020 before leaving for the Atlanta Falcons. Stewart had previously worked at Maryland as the defensive coordinator from 2012-14 under Randy Edsall, overlapping with Locksley’s time as the offensive coordinator. When Stewart returned to the same position in 2021, he also coached safeties.

Steele, a South Carolina native, was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach, in 2017. As Auburn’s defensive coordinator that season, his unit ranked 14th nationally in total defense and 12th in scoring defense.

Steele, 63, will take over the Maryland unit that lost both its starting safeties in senior Jordan Mosley and Nick Cross, who left school early for the NFL draft. Defensive lineman Sam Okuayinonu, another key starter, exhausted his eligibility and is heading to the NFL. But Maryland returns many players who had significant roles last season, including a few senior starters who are taking advantage of the eligibility waiver granted to all athletes because of the coronavirus pandemic: cornerback Jakorian Bennett and defensive linemen Ami Finau and Greg Rose.

Maryland also needs to add a wide receivers coach to its staff. Zohn Burden, who led that position group in 2021, left for a similar job at Duke.

Stewart’s contract with Maryland lasted through the 2023 season and it’s unclear whether he will remain on the staff in a different role.