Stewart Named Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator at MTSU

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Mason names Stewart Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee head football coach Derek Mason announced today the hiring of Brian Stewart as the program’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator. Stewart, a former teammate of Mason in college, will also coach the safeties.

Stewart has over 30 years of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional ranks. He has coached seven pro bowlers and a hall of famer at the NFL level, along with 12 college players that were taken in the NFL Draft.

“When you look at his experience and our familiarity with one another in terms of structure and defense, there isn’t a better fit for what we want to do on that side of the ball,” said Mason. “He is proficient at coming out of the 3-4 structure and morphing into the 4-2-5 structure of defense and is one of the best Xs and Os guys I have been around. Brian understands how to put defensive players in position to be productive and successful. During his lengthy career, he has created some of the best run stopping and third down efficiency defenses in both college and the NFL.”

Stewart makes his way to MTSU after spending the 2023 season as the defensive coordinator for the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks under Wade Phillips. In 2023, the Roughnecks ranked first in the XFL in total defense, first in sacks, tied for first in defensive touchdowns and finished second in interceptions. Houston went 7-3 and advanced to the South Division Championship game.

“I am excited to be a part of the Blue Raider community and work closely with Derek Mason,” added Stewart. “We have known each other for more than three decades and now to have a chance to put a team together, and help each other out daily, is something I look forward to. Coming to a place like Tennessee that has good football players close to MTSU and the game is important to them is invaluable. We have a chance to keep these local players at MTSU who can bring us championships and I can’t wait to get started.”

Prior to being out of football for the 2022 season, Stewart served as the defensive coordinator at Maryland under Mike Locksley. The Terrapins finished that season as Pinstripe Bowl Champions.

In 2020, Stewart served as the cornerbacks coach at Baylor, helping lead a Baylor defense that finished second in the Big 12 Conference allowing only 203.0 passing yards per game. The Bears were second in the league with 12 interceptions and allowed only 32 plays of 20+ yards on the year, the second fewest in the Big 12. Cornerback Raleigh Texada earned All-Big 12 honors under Stewart’s tutelage.

Before his time at Baylor, Stewart coached defensive backs with the Detroit Lions from 2018-19. Under his leadership, Darius Slay reached consecutive Pro Bowls and had at least two interceptions in each season while totaling 30 passes defensed overall. Slay was the first Lions corner in 40 years to reach three straight Pro Bowls.

Additionally, Lions DB Quandre Diggs put together a strong 2018 season in Stewart’s first season leading Detroit’s secondary. Diggs was the only DB in the NFL to finish the 2018 season with at least 75 tackles, three interceptions, three tackles for loss and one pick-six.

Stewart was the defensive coordinator and interim head coach at Rice in 2017 and the defensive backs coach at the University of Nebraska for two seasons in 2015-16, where he coached three All-Big Ten and NFL players in safety Nate Gerry and cornerbacks Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones.

When hired at Maryland in 2012, Stewart oversaw a remarkable instant turnaround of the defense. His unit finished the 2012 season ranked second in the ACC and 21st in the nation in total defense (336.8 ypg), second in the ACC and 26th nationally against the run (129.3 ypg) and third in the ACC and 32nd nationally in pass defense (207.5 ypg). The Terrapins also held five of their opponents under 100 rushing yards, a feat that only happened once in 2011. The 2012 Terrapin defense saw defensive lineman Joe Vellano earn First Team All-ACC honors and linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield garner second team recognition.

In 2013, Stewart led an aggressive Terrapin defense that became one of the most dominant pass rushing teams in the country. The unit finished the season with 37 sacks, the highest Maryland single-season total since the 2002 team racked up 38. The Terps’ 37 sacks tied for third in the ACC and tied for 18th nationally.

In the secondary, Stewart oversaw the emergence of freshman defensive back William Likely, who also was a standout special teams performer. Likely led the team in pass breakups (6) and ranked fifth in tackles (70) with 51 of them being solo, the second-highest total on the team. He also finished the season with 4.5 tackles for loss and one interception.

Likely would go on to have an even better sophomore season under Stewart in 2014, earning First Team All-Big Ten honors after tying for the conference lead with six interceptions and 15 pass breakups, while returning two interceptions for touchdowns, tied for the most in the FBS, and tying the Maryland all-time record.

Maryland all-time sacks leader Andre Monroe excelled under Stewart in 2013-14, posting 20 sacks over those two seasons, ranking second in the Big Ten with 10.5 in 2014 and seventh in the ACC with 9.5 in 2013.

After working as a defensive assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, Stewart returned to the college ranks for the first time in eight years, being named defensive coordinator at the University of Houston. During his tenure (2010-11), the Cougars finished with a 13-1 record and No. 14 ranking in 2011. Additionally, Houston ranked in the top 15 nationally in red zone scoring, interceptions, tackles for loss, takeaways and opponent completion percentage in 2011. In his second season with the Cougars, Stewart’s secondary featured cornerback, DJ Hayden, after Hayden joined the Cougars as a junior college transfer. In Hayden’s first season under Stewart, he was named Conference USA Defensive Newcomer of the Year before eventually being the 12th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Prior to Houston, Stewart spent eight years in the NFL, including a two-year stint (2007-08) as the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator. During his time in Dallas, Stewart’s defense finished in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed in each of his two seasons, respectively, marked by a 13-3 record and NFC East divisional title in 2007. Stewart’s 2007 defense was highlighted by an NFL-best five defensive players named to the Pro Bowl that season. In 10 NFL seasons, Stewart has helped 16 total players earn Pro Bowl appearances.

Stewart also served as the defensive backs coach with the San Diego Chargers (2004-06). He earned his start as an NFL coach when he served on the Houston Texans coaching staff in the team’s first two seasons as an expansion club (2002-03). He began his coaching career at Cal Poly where he coached wide receivers and running backs from 1992-93. His background as a collegiate coach also includes stints at Missouri (1999-2000), San Jose State (1997-98), Syracuse (2001) and Northern Arizona (1994-95).

A California native, Stewart played defensive back collegiately at Santa Monica City College and Northern Arizona.

Stewart graduated from Northern Arizona in 1995 with a degree in criminal justice. He and his wife, Kimberly, have three daughters, Leila, Mya, and Zara.

Source: MTSU
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