It signifies a return to the attacking style and the 3-4 formation the Terps played under Don Brown, whose sudden departure last spring left new coach Randy Edsall scrambling for a replacement. Edsall wound up promoting linebackers coach Todd Bradford, whose 4-3 scheme turned All-ACC safety Kenny Tate into a linebacker and contributed to Maryland's finishing 108th in the country in overall defense after being ranked 39th under Brown in 2010.
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Stewart, who spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator at the University of Houston after coaching eight seasons in the NFL, will be in charge of recruiting Northern Virginia and South Florida. He also will coach the secondary. Though mostly known for its high-scoring offense that helped Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin get hired recently at Texas A&M, 13-1 Houston improved last season defensively from 103rd to 62nd overall, including second in red zone points surrendered (67 percent ) and tied for fourth in turnovers forced (31).
"For the most part we like to dictate," said Stewart, who spent two seasons (2007-08) working as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys under Wade Phillips, now in that position himself with the Houston Texans . "I think it's a defense that is disciplined, we're smart and we're fast."
Stewart said during his introductory teleconference Tuesday that he has looked at tape of Maryland from last season's 2-10 debacle, but would not comment on specific players, including Tate, who missed more than half of the season with an injury and was given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA as a medical redshirt.
Asked how he thinks Stewart's 3-4 defense will work for Maryland's returning personnel, Edsall said, "I think it's going work really, really well with what we have, and then also with some of the young men we also have commitments from in terms of recruiting. The big thing is, for the people there in Baltimore and Washington and Maryland, what you saw out of the Houston Texans schematically the other day against the Ravens, that's the same thing that we're going to be playing at the University of Maryland."
Edsall, who last month brought in Locksley to replace Gary Crowton, said that he doesn't plan on making any other changes with his coaching staff.
"I'm very pleased with what we've done with our coaching staff," said Edsall, who now has five African-American assistants, including special teams coordinator Lyndon Johnson. "Now what we want to do is move forward and finish this recruiting class and then get down to work and get everyone acclimated to the new systems that we're going to be running."
Stewart, who was reportedly being coveted by a number of higher-profile BCS programs, said that he has followed Edsall's career since being an assistant at Syracuse in 2001. The two were brought together recently by Fran Foley, Maryland's director of football operations who worked with Stewart when both were at the San Diego Chargers. Stewart said athletic director Kevin Anderson also impressed him.
"He wants kids to be superstars in life, not just on the football field," said Stewart, the father of three daughters.
Stewart tried to downplay the fact that Maryland now stands alone in the ACC as the only school to have an African-American as offensive and defensive coordinators. In fact, Clemson is currently the only other ACC school with one African-American in those positions.
"Since yesterday was Martin Luther King's birthday, it's pretty exciting," Stewart said Tuesday. "I never really looked at it that way. I'm a defensive coordinator. As far as recruiting, it may or may not help. Good recruiters are good recruiters no matter what color they are, what race they are. I'm proud of my race, but I don't think that has anything to do with it."
Floyd Keith, executive director of the Black Coaches Association, said that the ACC is "not where you'd expect it would be" with minorities in high-profile assistant coaching positionsbut would rather look at Stewart's hiring for his accomplishments as a coach.
"He's got a great resume," Keith said. "The jobs he's held, he's got a great pedigree."
Recruiting analyst Mike Farrell of Rivals.com does not think that Maryland will have an advantage in recruiting with Stewart and Locksley on Edsall's staff, but said that both coordinators were great hires who can help turn things around. Farrell believes that Locksley was brought in with the immediate task of improving what had the potential for being a disastrous recruiting class.
"Despite all his troubles at New Mexico (where he was fired early in the 2010 season), Locksley is thought to be their recruiting savior ," Farrell said. "I think Locksley is going to be out there (recruiting) all the time, while Stewart is going to be more of a closer when they get to campus. He's got that NFL cache that sells well to recruits, a guy who can get them to the next level."