Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre recently announced that D.J. Eliot, who had served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Kentucky Wildcats since 2013, will be joining the Buffs and assuming the same roles.
Per a press release by the University of Colorado’s Sports Information Department, Eliot is seeking a three-year deal that will need to be approved by CU’s Board of Regents.
Eliot’s hiring closes the book on the search to replace Jim Leavitt, who hastily left CU a bit before the team’s Alamo Bowl appearance and accepted the defensive coordinator position with the University of Oregon.
Eliot, 40, attended the University of Wyoming, playing linebacker for the Cowboys in the mid-90s. After his playing days, he became a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1999 and served in the same capacity with the University of Houston from 2000-2001. In 2002, he continued his graduate assistant work with the Miami Hurricanes. The team went 12-0 in the regular season that year and played for a National Championship, losing to Ohio State in double overtime, 31-24.
From 2003-2005, Eliot worked at Texas State University, where he coached defensive backs in his first year and moved to linebackers in his final two. After coaching linebackers at Tulsa for their 2006 bowl game, he became the recruiting director and defensive line coach at Rice. During his time there from 2007-2009, the Owls won the 2008 Texas Bowl, the school’s first bowl win since 1950.
After leaving Rice, Eliot coached defensive ends at Florida State from 2010-2013. He then became Kentucky’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
““I’m excited about having D.J. Eliot as our defensive coordinator, he brings a lot of expertise and energy to our defense,” MacIntyre said, according to the press release. “Also he is one of the great, young defensive minds in the game of college football today.”
This past season, Kentucky lost the TaxSlayer Bowl in the university’s first postseason appearance since 2010. Under Eliot’s watch, Kentucky sophomore Jordan Jones became the first player in school history to record 100 tackles in a season.
The Wildcats were able to top then No. 11 Louisville this last year. Kentucky was able to achieve this feat by making Lamar Jackson, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy, have a rough day through the air. He went 16-of-25 with three interceptions, while being sacked three times.
Eliot coached linebacker Bud Dupree, who was a first round selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Fellow outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was also drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round in the same draft.
Eliot seems to have experience in turning defenses around in a similar manner Leavitt was able to tweak the Buffaloes. The Kentucky defense jumped 45 spots in the total defense department from 2013-2014 under him. In 2015, the Wildcats ranked 35th in the FBS in pass defense, giving up just 206.1 yards through the air per game.
Eliot joins a Colorado team that relied heavily on its defense in 2016. He inherits a defensive 11 that has lost two linebackers, three defensive backs and all three linemen. He will likely maintain a 3-4 defensive scheme with Colorado.
Eliot will be in Boulder this upcoming weekend to spend time with recruits. Developing the sophomores and juniors that will be cornerstones of Colorado’s defense will likely be among his top priorities.
Wednesday, Feb. 22, the beginning of the Buffs’ spring football exercises, will be a date that players, coaches and fans alike should be eager to see. It will be the first real chance to get a taste of what Eliot is planning and is capable of.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.