Believing is Key for Stewart

New defensive coordinator Brian Stewart hopes to improve a defense that was dead last in the ACC in 2011.

When Brian Stewart signed on to be the new defensive coordinator at Maryland on Jan. 17, he inherited quite the project. His goal: improve a defense that was dead last in the ACC last season.

However, the former University of Houston defensive coordinator came to College Park with a lengthy resume and a plan. The Wade Phillips and Dom Capers disciple will bring an aggressive 3-4 set to a team and a fan base starving for a potent defense.

“We are a pressure defense,” said Stewart during a Wednesday press conference. “When we talk about pressure defense, we're not just talking about blitzing every play, every down. That's not what pressure is.”

Stewart's pressure 3-4, he went on to explain, involves the defensive backs being in a position to contest every catch and the linebackers showing at the line of scrimmage in a manner that doesn't tip the quarterback as to who is coming.

This “chameleon look” that the 3-4 gives, according to Stewart, is one of the many upsides of the scheme. “In the 3-4, I could be a chameleon. I could be in any look I want,” said Stewart. “I could look like a 4-3 stack. I could look like

Under. I can be in Bear. And that allows me to be in wherever I wanna be and put pressure on the offense by being in different places.”

The well-traveled Stewart, who was an assistant in the NFL for eight seasons before coming back to the college game in 2010 with Houston, led a 2011 Cougars defense that was among the best in the FBS. In his first year at Maryland, Stewart will try and rebuild the 108th ranked total defense mess that ex-defensive coordinator Todd Bradford left behind.

“I never look at rankings,” said Stewart. “I think if you get caught up in the rankings you can get discouraged or you'll start patting yourself on the back … First of all, you've got to believe in your system. You look at the people that are gonna play in your system. And you look at they guys who will teach your system. If you can get those three things to jive, then you got a chance to be successful and that's how I looked at it.”

Unlike another new member of the coaching staff, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, Stewart has been all over game tape in the recent weeks. “I look at it every day,” admitted Stewart. “Over and over.”

In terms of evaluating his players, Stewart claims he focuses more on the individuals' skill sets than the scheme they were playing in. Therefore, he hopes that come springtime he will have a solid enough understanding of each players' capabilities to know where they fit on the field.

Despite the Terps' defensive struggles last season, Stewart will still have what he feels is some standout talent to work with. “You have Joe [Vellano] who just does a great job with his hustle,” said Stewart. “You have young Matt Robinson who runs around and has good range … there's tons of guys that have great potential. You just wanna make sure as a defensive play caller, you wanna make sure that at the end of the day you put them where they can be successful.”

Many would look at Stewart's plans and say that the changing of defensive schemes could cause plenty more problems for an already battered defense. Yet, according to Stewart, the smoothness of the transition comes down to just one thing. “It's all buy-in,” said Stewart. “It's how fast the buy-in is. People say well, it's this, it's this. No. It's just buy-in. I think once people believe, they make it work.”

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