Maryland already knew it was going into the 2015 football season without all of its front seven on defense. Now the Terps know they will go into their second year in the Big Ten Conference with a new defensive coordinator.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall announced Thursday that Brian Stewart, who spent the past three seasons in that position, has left the program. According to a statement released by the athletic department, Stewart's departure was mutual.
Inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski, who has been with the Terps for four years, was promoted to coordinator. He previously served as defensive coordinator at Football Championship Subdivision program Massachusetts, where the Minutemen finished in the Top 20 in total defense three times and were ranked first in scoring defense in 2005.
Stewart had two years left on his contract. While the defense performed above expectations during Stewart's first season — finishing 21st nationally despite the Terps going 4-8 — it declined the past two years, dropping to 44th in 2013 and 97th in 2014.
Things deteriorated badly toward the end of last season, when the Terps surrended a 35-10 lead late in the second quarter and lost to Rutgers, 41-38. In the Foster Farms Bowl, the Terps surrendered 411 yards to Stanford in a 45-21 rout.
"We appreciate Brian's contributions to our program over the past three seasons," Edsall said in statement. "Brian played an integral role in developing our student-athletes both on and off the field during his time at Maryland. While overseeing the defense he helped elevate our program to compete in one of the nation's premier conferences. In our conversations, we both felt this was the best of course of action for Brian and his family, and the Maryland football program. I wish Brian the best in his future endeavors."
It is not clear where Stewart will end up. A former defensive coordinator at Houston as well as with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, Stewart had unsuccessfully tried to get a college head coaching job over the past two years, including a couple attempts in recent months.
"I truly enjoyed working with the coaches, student-athletes and administration at the University of Maryland," Stewart said in a statement released by Maryland. "It was an exciting time to be a part of this program, and I will always have great memories and relationships from my time in College Park. After talking with my family and then meeting with Randy, we both agreed that this was best direction moving forward. I would like to thank Randy for the opportunity to coordinate the defense for the past three seasons. I also want to express my appreciation to the defensive staff and players for their hard work and commitment to the football program."
Under Dudzinski's direction, linebacker Cole Farrand was named all-Big Ten after leading the Terps in tackles.
"Keith is an accomplished coach who has a strong history as a defensive coordinator prior to his time at the University of Maryland," Edsall said. "Over the past four seasons, he has been a great asset to our coaching staff in terms of game planning and developing our inside linebackers. Keith has a good rapport with our student-athletes and a great knowledge of our personnel, which will make for a seamless transition for our defensive unit."