Terrapin Defense “Work in Progress”
By Garrett Strunk
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If Brian Stewart's past is any indication, Maryland should rest assured that they have found the right guy to lead their defense.
The 2011 season started out on the right foot for the Maryland football team with a Labor Day win against the University of Miami. Unfortunately, other than their falshy new uniforms, it was perhaps the only positive highlight of the season.
There was plenty of blame to go around for the team's 2-10 record, which resulted in the team hiring new coordinators on both sides of the ball in consecutive years. Now that the disastrous 2011 season is in the rear view mirror, it's time to focus on what the new coaches have to offer. Let's start with the defensive coordinator, Brian Stewart. A quick run down of his resume:
Houston Cougars (2010-2011): His defense went from 32.2 points per game in 2010, to 22.4 points per in his second season as the DC in 2011.
NFL (2002-2009): He spent time coaching in the pros with the Texans, Chargers, Eagles and two seasons as the the DC for the Cowboys.
College (1995-2001): He was a position coach for Cal Poly, Northern Arizona, San Jose State, Missouri and Syracuse.
As well as being the defensive coordinator, he will also coach the defensive backs, where his units have generally performed exceptionally well, particularly in forcing turnovers.
I recently had the privilege of picking Coach Stewart's brain in a brief interview. In it, I learned that he is currently in his home state of California visiting various junior colleges.
In the last recruiting class, Coach Stewart picked up a junior college defensive back from Contra Costa College in California named Isaac Goins. I asked Coach Stewart what kind of skills this guy brings to the team? He described Goins as a “smooth corner” who “attacks the ball” and is “a good tackler”.
Coach Stewart will have some very good players to work with in his first season in College Park, including a senior-laden group of linebackers. One of those senior players will be Kenny Tate, a former All-ACC performer as a safety. Coach Stewart confirmed to me that he will be moved to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Tate is coming off a season-ending injury, and his absence was a contributing factor to Maryland's struggles last season.
I asked Coach Stewart if he thought he had any players that will hear their names called on the day of the NFL draft next year? He responded, “Can't answer that right now. They have the skill set.......have to see when they play Clemson and Florida State.”
Maryland's toughest test next season will be trying to contain the Clemson offense that scored 56 points on them a year ago. They did not do much better in their next game against FSU, allowing 41 points. Both of these schools are expected to be the class of the ACC once again in 2012. so it will present the Terrapins with yet another daunting challenge.
Finally, I asked Coach Stewart if he thinks he can turn the Maryland defense into one of the top defensive units in the conference in his first year? “It's going to be a work in progress, we have to play discipline, play smart and play fast,” he responded.
While it certainly won't be easy, if Brian Stewart's past is any indication, then the Maryland faithful should rest assured that they have found the right guy to lead their defense.