by Chuck Pool (email@example.com) -
Brian Stewart, who has coordinated defenses at both the NFL and FBS levels, and Scott Vestal, who has coached defensive backs in both the Big 12 and Big Ten, have joined David Bailiff's Rice Football defensive coaching staff as the new defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
"These are two great additions to our coaching staff," Bailiff said. "Brian Stewart has demonstrated his abilities at the highest level our game can offer, both in coaching the defensive backs but also as the coordinator of some dominating defenses. Scott Vestal brings an amazing energy and knowledge of the game to the field and to the meeting room and will be a great fit for our team."
Stewart brings 25 years of coaching experience, including seven in the NFL, to South Main as well as seven years of experience as a defensive coordinator at both the NFL (Dallas, 2008-09) and collegiate (Houston, 2010-11; Maryland 2012-14) levels.
In his two seasons with the Cowboys under head coach Wade Phillips, Stewart's defense produced five Pro Bowl players (DeMarcus Ware, Roy Williams, Greg Ellis, Ken Hamlin & Terrance Newman) and was ranked ninth in the league in defense in 2007. Prior to taking over the Cowboys defensive attack, he coached defensive backs for three seasons with the San Diego Chargers, winning the AFC West in two of those three years.
He comes to Rice after two seasons at Nebraska where he coached the Huskers defensive backs and saw the Huskers reach a pair of bowl games as well as engineer an upset of No. 6 Michigan State in 2015. Prior to joining the Huskers, he served as the defensive coordinator at Maryland for three years, guiding the Terrapins to a pair of bowl games.
Stewart is returning to familiar territory, having been a member of the Houston Texans staff during their first two seasons in addition to serving as the defensive coordinator at the University of Houston from 2010-11, highlighted by a 13-1 finish and final ranking of 14th in 2011.
In addition to coordinating the Owls defensive attack, Stewart will also coach the Owls cornerbacks. Since his return to the college ranks, he has produced three defensive backs who were taken in the top three rounds of the NFL draft, including D.J. Hayden, who was the 12th pick in the first round of the 2013 draft by the Raiders; Dexter McDougle the 80th overall pick of the 2014 selection by the Jets and Sean Davis, who was the 58th overall pick by the Steelers last May.
Vestal comes to Rice from Maryland where he was a Defensive Assistant/Quality Control and worked with the Terrapin safeties. Prior to joining the Terps, he spent three years at Kansas, first as the Assistant Director of Football Operations and then for the last two years as the safeties coach. Among the players he developed for the Jayhawks was All -Big XII safety Jacory Shepherd, who led the conference in passes defended in 2014.
He also served as a defensive assistant at SMU, North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Texas and Florida.
Both coaches have assumed their duties with the Owls and will be on the road recruiting over the next two weeks.