Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot talked Tuesday about the Wildcats' bye week.
D.J. Eliot, who played a key role in the dramatic defensive turnaround at Florida State under Mark Stoops, is in his second season as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Kentucky.
In his first year with the Blue and White, Eliot culminated the development of Avery Williamson as one of the top linebackers in the Southeastern Conference. Williamson was a first-team All-SEC pick by CollegeSportsMadness.com and a second-team all-league choice by several selectors. He became a fifth-round selection by the Tennessee Titans in the National Football League draft.
Williamson and both starting tackles have departed from last year's team, but a total of eight defensive starters and several experienced reserves should give UK a deeper defensive unit in 2014.
Eliot helped Stoops orchestrate a magnificent revival of the defense at Florida State, where Eliot coached defensive ends from 2010-12. In 2012, he helped lead FSU to one of the best defensive campaigns in school history en route to a 12-2 record, the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference and a 2013 Orange Bowl victory.
The year before Eliot and Stoops arrived in Tallahassee, the Seminoles ranked 108th in total defense and rushing defense. But in 2012, FSU ranked first nationally in fewest yards per play (3.86), second in total defense (254.1 yards per game) and sixth in scoring defense (14.7 points per game). FSU also allowed only 3.86 yards per play, leading the nation in that category. In each of Eliot's first two years on the job, FSU ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in sacks and the top 25 in tackles for loss. Eliot's players also had outstanding individual achievements.
Bjoern Werner had 13 sacks in 2012, leading the ACC and tying for third nationally in total sacks. He was first-team All-America and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Brandon Jenkins earned All-ACC honors in 2010 and `11 before sustaining a season-ending injury in the 2012 season opener. Despite not playing the remainder of the year, he was still a fifth-round selection in the NFL Draft.
After Jenkins' injury, Cornellius Carradine went from FSU backup to joining Werner as first-team All-ACC. He had 11 sacks, second in the ACC behind his teammate, and 15th nationally. He went in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Under Eliot's guidance, Markus White had a breakout season in 2010 and has played two seasons in the NFL.
Werner and Carradine formed the top defensive end tandem in the nation with a combined 24 sacks and 31 total tackles for loss. In 2011, Jenkins, Werner and Carradine combined for 20.5 sacks and 31 TFL while limiting opponents to just 2.35 yards per carry, which led the nation in that category. In Eliot's first season at FSU, the `Noles tied for the national lead for most sacks with 48.
Eliot and Stoops first became acquainted at Wyoming, where Stoops coached the defensive backs while Eliot played linebacker. The two coached together at Wyoming as Eliot was a graduate assistant for his alma mater in 1999.
The two continued to work together in 2000 when Stoops joined the staff at the University of Houston as the co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach and Eliot was a graduate assistant. Eliot remained at Houston through 2001 before rejoining Stoops in 2002 at Miami (Fla.) as a grad assistant. The two helped lead the Canes to a 12-1 record and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
Eliot earned his first full-time coaching position in 2003 at Texas State. The Bobcats went from a 4-8 record to 5-6 to 11-3 in the 2005 season, which featured a Southland Conference championship and a berth in the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs.
Eliot helped lead a defensive turnaround at Texas State. In his first season, TSU gave up 34.8 points per game, 394.6 yards per game and 191.3 rushing yards per game. Two years later, the Bobcats gave up only 20.3 points per game, 313.9 yards per game and 136.2 rushing yards per game.
Eliot moved from Texas State to Tulsa, helping lead the Golden Hurricane to an 8-5 record and an appearance in the 2006 Armed Forces Bowl. As linebackers coach, Eliot developed Nick Bunting into the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and all three of his LBs, Bunting, Nelson Coleman and Chris Chamberlain, earned All-CUSA honors. Chamberlain went on to play several years in the NFL.
After Tulsa, Eliot coached three seasons (2007-2009) at Rice as the recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach. His best year at Rice was in 2008 when the Owls went 10-3 and won the Texas Bowl. The season was historic for Rice, serving as the Owls' first 10-win season since 1949 and first bowl victory since 1950.
Two of the players Eliot recruited and developed were defensive ends Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu, who led Conference USA linemen in 2009 with 124 combined tackles along with 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. Both Solomon and Ozougwu became All-CUSA selections and are in the NFL, Solomon with Tampa Bay and Ozougwu with New Orleans.
A native of Edmond, Okla., Eliot graduated from Wyoming with a degree in natural science. He earned a master's degree in education at Houston. He and his wife, Miekel, have one son, Dawson, and two daughters, Drue and Page.