Once the weak link of Mark Stoops’ team, Derrick LeBlanc transformed the unit into the cornerstone of Kentucky’s defense. Now LeBlanc is leaving Lexington, handing the reins to someone who previously served as his righthand man, Anwar Stewart.
Although it has yet to be announced by UK, KSR has learned Stewart will be Kentucky’s next defensive line coach. You may have heard the name before but probably don’t know much else about the man. Here’s what the addition of Stewart means for Kentucky’s talented defensive line.
Stoops’ staff will now have three former players in assistant coaching roles, joining Jon Sumrall and John Schlarman. UK’s line coaches played together in the late 90s. Now they’ll work closely with one another to make sure the Cats are winning in the trenches.
Coaches who attended the school aren’t better than a coach who did not attend the school. Being an alumnus does not make you a qualified coach. For some, coaching for your former school probably means a little more. Proud alumni are willing to sacrifice and go the extra mile to make sure their school is successful. Seeing Stoops connect with players from different eras can only be viewed as a positive.
Experienced, Successful Player
A team captain on Hal Mumme’s 1999 squad that went to the Music City Bowl, Stewart’s scoop and score against Alabama in 1997 paved the way for “Couch to Yeast” in overtime. Following his Kentucky career he spent 13 years in the CFL. The veteran won four Grey Cups, earned two all-star game bids and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. The defensive end retired in 2013 with 70 career sacks and 10 interceptions.
Pete Jenkins Disciple
You may not know the name Pete Jenkins, but he’s a big deal in coaching circles. Freddie Maggard likens the former LSU defensive coordinator to defensive line play as Hal Mumme is to the Air Raid. Known for tactical expertise, Jenkins’ disciples litter the college coaching ranks. Although Stewart never directly worked for Jenkins, he has experience working with folks who share the same principles.
If there’s one thing you take away from Stewart’s addition, let it be this.
Stewart served as LeBlanc’s graduate assistant in 2017 and 2018, coaching his final game on the UK sidelines in the Citrus Bowl. He will enter a meeting room filled with players he’s worked with previously. Not only does he know them on a personal level, Stewart will already have a good idea of each player’s strengths and weaknesses. He understands the expectations and the culture Mark Stoops has established at Kentucky. Even though LeBlanc is leaving, there’s no drop off. Kentucky can continue to move forward like nothing has changed.
New to Coaching
There’s no guarantee this a home run hire for Stoops. Stewart has only served as a full-time assistant coach for one season. How well can he recruit? It’s unknown. All we know is that he should have some established connections where he grew up in the panhandle of Florida.
The inexperience isn’t necessarily a negative. The new guy on the block will not receive a huge salary, giving Stoops every possible option to fill the vacancy left by Dean Hood. He could put an emphasis on recruiting, find an established special teamer or search for someone who’s going to grab headlines.
Stewart does not have an extensive coaching resume but he’s been praised as a tactician that develops good habits. When he returns to Kentucky’s defensive line meeting room he will be greeted by a recruiting class filled with four-star prospects and the highest-ranked UK signee of internet era. Stewart has all of the tools to turn Kentucky’s defensive line into the best in the SEC.