LINCOLN — Brian Stewart had no direct connection with new Nebraska football coach Mike Riley before being hired as the Huskers’ secondary coach in late February.
But Stewart knew people who did.
What impressed him beyond Riley’s football smarts was that many assistants coached with Riley a long time. That sounded good to Stewart, 50, after what happened at Maryland following three seasons at defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
In January 2014, Stewart was rewarded with a multi-year contract extension. In February 2015, he left the Terrapins “by mutual agreement.”
Stewart said the change of address inside the Big Ten has been all good.
“The quality of life with Coach Riley is awesome,” he said. “Everything is important from your family to where you live to what time we get in the office.
“He’s a great communicator of his vision, the team’s vision as well as how he sees his coaches fit in to that vision.”
Riley and Stewart have gotten to know each other quickly.
Both are still living in a downtown Lincoln hotel and often walk to work and dine together. Stewart, married with three daughters, had his family in Lincoln during the weekend of the spring game to house hunt.
Stewart said he doesn’t want to give the impression that Riley is so nice that he lets things slide or doesn’t hold people accountable.
“He expects you to be an expert at your job,” Stewart said. “When he talks to you, you’ve got to have answers. But at the same time, he respects your personal time.”
Stewart is the third Nebraska defensive assistant with coordinator experience, joining NU coordinator Mark Banker and line coach Hank Hughes. Stewart, besides running the defense at Maryland, also led those units with the Dallas Cowboys (2007-08) and the University of Houston (2010-11).
At Maryland, Stewart used a 3-4 defensive alignment. So learning how Banker and linebackers coach Trent Bray operate their 4-3 has taken some study but hasn’t been head-spinning.
“Football-wise, it has really slowed down for me for the fact that we’re pretty simple — but effective — in what we do,” he said. “Coach Banker does a good job of explaining it. And Coach Bray played in this defense, so those two guys have made it easy for me to pick up.”
Stewart needs to learn fast so he can pass it on to his defensive backs. That position at Nebraska has a new coach for the fifth time in six years.
“I like the talent here,” he said. “A couple of those guys I recruited when I was at Maryland.”
Something never seen at Maryland was nearly 77,000 fans for a spring practice. Stewart, in his 23rd season of coaching, shook his head and smiled at that sight.
“People told me about it, but coming out to warm up and seeing the stands full for spring practice makes you smile,” he said. “If you didn’t know, that tells you why you want to be at Nebraska.
“That was one of the most awesome things I have experienced.”
And what did the recruits in town think?
“Hey, if I was impressed,” Stewart said, “you know they had to be impressed, too.”
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