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Keith Dudzinski replaces Brian Stewart as Maryland defensive coordinator

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In a surprise announcement Thursday, the Terrapins are making a change at the top of their defense.

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Maryland and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart have "mutually agreed to part ways," the school announced Thursday. Inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski has been promoted to defensive coordinator, while Stewart's defensive backs coach role remains open.

Stewart arrived at Maryland prior to the 2012 season, replacing one-year disaster Todd Bradford. A California native, he was the defensive coordinator at Houston before taking the Maryland job (previously he was the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator). His 3-4 defense was an immediate improvement over Bradford's, jumping from 81st in F/+ to 50th, but the units have gotten progressively worse since: 64th in 2013 and 66th in 2014. Stewart's senior-heavy defense was highly criticized for an absolute collapse against Rutgers and a poor performance against Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.

"We appreciate Brian's contributions to our program over the past three seasons," head coach Randy Edsall said. "Brian played an integral role in developing our student-athletes both on and off the field during his time at Maryland. While overseeing the defense he helped elevate our program to compete in one of the nation's premier conferences. In our conversations, we both felt this was the best of course of action for Brian and his family, and the Maryland football program. I wish Brian the best in his future endeavors."

Stewart was previously a "top candidate" for the open Tulsa head coaching vacancy and will almost certainly end up with a different job soon. He was rewarded a multi-year extension from Maryland last January.

"I truly enjoyed working with the coaches, student-athletes and administration at the University of Maryland," Stewart said. "It was an exciting time to be a part of this program, and I will always have great memories and relationships from my time in College Park. After talking with my family and then meeting with Randy, we both agreed that this was best direction moving forward. I would like to thank Randy for the opportunity to coordinate the defense for the past three seasons. I also want to express my appreciation to the defensive staff and players for their hard work and commitment to the football program."

Dudzinski came to Maryland in 2011 as a part of Randy Edsall's original staff, arriving after a successful six-year stint as UMass's defensive coordinator. In Dudzinski's first year at UMass (as a defensive line coach), the Minutemen won an FCS national championship. After a few more successful years and a disappointing 3-8 campaign in 2001, he left UMass to join Don Brown's staff at Northeastern. At first, he was the Huskies' linebacking coach, but took over as defensive coordinator for the 2003 season.

Dudzinski was hired back in 2004, coaching multiple All-American and all-league players (including Buchanan Award candidate Jason Hatchell) and helping guide the program to another national championship appearance in 2006.

"Keith is an accomplished coach who has a strong history as a defensive coordinator prior to his time at the University of Maryland," Edsall said. "Over the past four seasons, he has been a great asset to our coaching staff in terms of game planning and developing our inside linebackers. Keith has a good rapport with our student-athletes and a great knowledge of our personnel, which will make for a seamless transition for our defensive unit."