COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Stewart is in his first season with the Maryland staff following a successful two seasons with the Houston Cougars. Prior to his time in Houston, Coach Stewart climbed the NFL ranks to take the role as Defensive Coordinator.
The Cougars had one of the best defenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2011, ranking in the top 15 in five categories: red-zone scoring (second - 67 percent), interceptions (t-third - 21), tackles for loss (sixth - 7.7 per game), turnovers gained (t-10th - 31) and opponent passing efficiency (12th - 111.75 rating).
Houston also improved from 96th nationally in scoring defense (32.2 points per game) in 2010 to 35th (22.4) this past year.
“I’m very pleased to have Brian come on board,” Edsall said. “He is a proven defensive coordinator at both the collegiate and professional level. All of his experience will help us move forward as we look for him to implement his aggressive style. He will also be a great addition to our recruiting efforts.”
Stewart is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I’m excited to join Randy's staff,” Stewart said. “I admired what he did at UConn and saw the beginning of that transformation while I was at Syracuse. We’ve taken similar career paths as secondary coaches and then coordinators. It will be an exciting new challenge implementing our defense in the ACC, a very competitive league and one of the traditional BCS conferences.”
Stewart has a history of grooming players and a pair of senior linebackers flourished this past season in his defense.
Marcus McGraw totaled 141 stops in 2011 to set a school record for career tackles (509) and Sammy Brown finished the year with 13.5 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss. Brown’s sack total ranks second in school history and he led the FBS in TFL (2.1 per game).
Another reason for Houston’s defensive improvement was the play of cornerback D.J. Hayden. The junior-college transfer was named the 2011 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year after posting 11 pass breakups, two interceptions and five forced fumbles.
Stewart, 47, went to Houston after an eight-year run as an NFL assistant, including two years (2007-08) as the defensive coordinator with Dallas, where he guided the Cowboys to two top-10 rankings in fewest yards allowed.
The Cowboys led the league with 59 sacks in 2008 and ranked third in that category in 2007 (46). An NFL-best five Cowboys defenders (DeMarcus Ware, Roy Williams, Greg Ellis, Ken Hamlin and Terence Newman) earned Pro Bowl selections after the 2007 campaign.
“Brian Stewart is one of the bright defensive minds in the game today,” former Dallas head coach and current Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “I know that Maryland is lucky to have him. Brian will be a great addition to Coach Edsall’s staff.
Stewart went to University of Houston after spending the 2009 season as a defensive special assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he coached the NFL’s top cornerback interception tandem of Asante Samuel (9) and Sheldon Brown (5). Samuel led the league in interceptions in 2009 and was named to the 2010 Pro Bowl.
Stewart served as the secondary coach with the San Diego Chargers for three seasons (2004-06), During his final year, the Chargers posted a 14-2 record and ranked seventh in the NFL in scoring defense (18.9 points allowed per game), while cornerback Quentin Jammer had a career-high four interceptions.
Stewart began his NFL career as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Houston Texans (2002-03).
Before joining the NFL ranks, Stewart spent his first nine years of coaching at the collegiate level.
He served as the defensive backs coach at Syracuse in 2001 when he helped lead the Orange to a 10-3 overall record and No. 14 ranking in final Associated Press poll.
Stewart also coached the secondary at San Jose State (1997-98) and Missouri (1999-00).
A former college cornerback and free safety with Northern Arizona and Santa Monica City College, Stewart earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from NAU in 1995.
His first coaching position came as offensive assistant at Cal Poly, where he worked with the wide receivers in 1993 and running backs in 1994. The native of West Covina, Calif., also coached tight ends at Northern Arizona University (1995) and was a graduate assistant at Missouri (1996).