New defensive coordinator strives to bring pressure
As a defensive special assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles last year and a defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 2007-09, first-year defensive coordinator Brian Stewart has a long list of credentials.
His main job this year will be incorporating the 3-4 set into the Cougars’ defense.
“We were ranked 111th last year, so expectations are high because we want to represent ourselves better than that,” Stewart said. “I am excited, the players are excited, and so we are anxious to start playing.”
Stewart will be place most of his attention on safeties, who will make different reads now that the defense has shifted to the 3-4 scheme.
“I think it (3-4) makes us faster and more athletic,” Stewart said.
Stewart replaced John Skladany as the defensive coordinator. Stewart’s defensive philosophy is navigating the Cougars away from a more common 4-3 scheme. Problems with the defense surfaced in the two final games against East Carolina in the Conference USA Championship and Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
“Proof is in the pudding,” Stewart said. “When we play we will get the opportunity to see how we adapted to it, but as far as practice and spring I think they have adapted well.”
Stewart mentored multiple college teams before making his NFL coaching debut as a defensive backs assistant with the Texans in 2002.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin is pleased to have him as part of the coaching staff.
“He’s been through it all. I like the energy he has our guys playing with, and I like the scheme,” Sumlin said.
“For the first time since we have been here, my philosophy has changed as a coach. Now we have a defense that can fulfill all of those changes.”
Transfers Matangi Tonga and Sammy Brown will play at defensive tackle and linebacker, respectively. Stewart said he thinks Brown and Tonga are the missing pieces that complete the puzzle.
“Sammy is doing a good job as one of our outside linebackers, and I think Matangi Tonga is going to do a good job anchoring as our nose tackle,” Stewart said.
As the defense makes adjustments to complement the new scheme, Stewart has had to make the transition from coaching NFL players to coordinating a college defense.
A new philosophy on defense has players excited on both sides of the ball. The Cougars’ offense has faced a barrage of defensive coverage in scrimmages in the offseason.
Junior wide receiver Tyron Carrier commended Stewart for his complex play calling.
“I talked to coach Stewart a couple of times this summer just to tell him how great they were and how I was confused half the time I was there,” Carrier said.
“He told me to get used to it because I’m going to see it on the next level. We’re bringing an NFL-type defense here; we can’t go anywhere but up.”