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It’s official: DJ Eliot hired as defensive coordinator

The former Kentucky man is ready to helm the D.

The rumored hire turned out to be true: DJ Eliot is joining the Buffs as the defensive coordinator. Given a three year deal, Eliot will walk into a good situation in Boulder, coming off the heels of a dominant defensive performance from last year’s Buffaloes. However, Eliot will have to replace eight starters on defense and Jim Leavitt, who improved the defense from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best.

DJ comes from Kentucky, as detailed in this article from our own Jon Woods. Previously, he was an amazing position coach and recruiter from Florida State, and his prowess should continue at Colorado. He started his career at Wyoming, so the Front Range is nothing new to him, and his Texas ties should help the Buffs strengthen their presence in that state.

Some wonderful people from SB Nation’s Kentucky site, A Sea of Blue, had this to say:

DJ Eliot leaves Lexington without many supporters. After his defense gave up 89 points in the first two games this season, Mark Stoops publicly said he was taking back defensive play-calling duties. The writing on the wall was pretty clear after that, and Stoops' and Eliot's close relationship wasn't going to save his employment. To be honest, I think many UK fans are surprised he's getting a P5 coordinator job.

Eliot's defenses never fared all that well at Kentucky, but in his defense, Stoops' play-calling wasn't any better. This was a young defense this year, and that certainly played a role, but the defense was not great statistically the previous three season's either. I do think he was a good linebacker coach as I saw improved play from his guys as each season progressed.

I'm not sure what he'll do schematically at CU, but UK ran the 4-3 in 2013 and 3-4 the last three seasons, so he has experience being "multiple". While his defenses have not been blitz-heavy, he does likes blitzing with his nickel backs coming off of slot receivers, and they played man coverage with some Cover 3 pattern-matching too. UK has not gotten into the recent Quarters Coverage craze, but still plays a "keep everyone in front of you" philosophy.

As far as recruiting goes, Eliot was instrumental in signing players for UK's 2013 class, but he's mostly worked behind the scenes since. I've been told that in private settings he's got a great personality which probably lends itself to recruiting. You wouldn't know it watching his media interviews as much. I believe he's from Wyoming originally, and so he may be able to leverage that to help recruit to Boulder.

If CU is returning a lot of defensive experience next season, I think Eliot will do a serviceable job. His first job as a coordinator was a rather unforgiving one rebuilding a Kentucky program in a tough conference, but the defense didn't improve enough over time. Hopefully he's learned from it, and he can be a great coordinator at CU.

That’s some fantastic info, and there’s a lot of things to unpack. Before I do, however, I would like to point out his pedigree, that was mentioned in this quote and should be mentioned. He has been a part of two national championship coaching staffs, at Miami and Florida State, and he has learned from Mark Stoops and now Mike MacIntyre, two of the best defensive minds in the game. Everyone in his coaching career has been successful and great at their jobs, which surely helped Eliot learn and get better. Now, to the quote.

Both Stoops and Eliot struggled with the Kentucky defense at times this season, with Stoops faring better. As Will points out, they had an extremely young defense and “if CU is returning a lot of defensive experience next season, I think Eliot will do a serviceable job.” Well, CU isn’t. But, Coach MacIntyre has done a masterful job of class balance and there will be plenty of veteran players playing minutes. They just haven’t been starters. So Eliot doesn’t inherit a bare cupboard, but he will replacing multiple studs on that side of the ball.

A Sea of Blue does a great job explaining the nuts and bolts of their defense here. They mention a switch to a 3-4, which is what CU will be running under MacIntyre. Particularly an attacking 3-4. They also mention the nickel blitzes, a favorite of MacIntyre’s during Chidobe Awuzie’s reign over the secondary. If that wrinkle sticks, it looks like that is a common theme that works well at CU. Finally, they mention pattern matching with Cover 3. The Buffs played much more straight up man than cover 3, but there was some pattern matching this year. Pattern matching, as the name suggests, basically turns the defensive backfield into a matchup zone, like in basketball. The defensive backfield says, “if the receiver stays within 10 yards on the outside, I will stay with him, otherwise he’s the safety’s responsibility.” Everyone has a route they are responsible rather than a man or zone, essentially. I would expect the Buffs to have a more aggressive scheme in the backfield under Mac.

The second to last paragraph mentions his most important asset. According to this info, Eliot is great in the living room. If DJ can get the Jimmys and Joes, the X’s and O’s will come. He certainly has the brains around him to design some schemes. If he can get the players, he’ll look like a genius no matter what plays are called. As a position coach at Florida State, he signed some ballers and taught them to a high level. Add his energy and his newfound knowledge, he seems like an up-an-comer in the coaching world. Everyone will make this comparison, but Chiaverini was a similar hire last year. That worked out all right.

Welcome, Coach!