Football beat Ohio University 20-3 on Saturday, September 6, 2014, in Lexington's Commonwealth Stadium.
D.J. Eliot, who sparked Kentucky to a school-record six defensive touchdowns last season, is in his third year as defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach.
Kentucky’s 2014 defense created 23 turnovers, including the record six returned for TDs, as the Wildcats finished second in the Southeastern Conference in turnover margin. UK made a significant improvement in yards allowed per play, jumping 45 places in the rankings from 2013 to 2014, finishing in the top half of the nation in that statistic. The Cats also improved to sixth in the SEC in quarterback sacks.
In his first two years with UK, Eliot has seen five of his defensive players earn All-SEC recognition and three have become NFL draft choices. In 2015, Alvin “Bud” Dupree was taken in the first round by Pittsburgh and Za’Darius Smith was a fourth-round pick by Baltimore.
Eliot’s top linebackers, Avery Williamson in 2013 and Josh Forrest in 2014, each totaled more than 100 tackles, finished among the SEC’s top-five tacklers and earned All-SEC honors.
Prior to UK, Eliot helped Mark 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 Atlantic Coast Conference championship 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 second nationally 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 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 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 played three seasons in the NFL.
Werner and Carradine formed the top defensive end tandem in the nation in 2012 with a combined 24 sacks and 31 total tackles for loss. In 2011, FSU limited 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 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 played 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 was in 2008 when the Owls went 10-3 and won the Texas Bowl. It was a historic season, 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.
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 three daughters, Drue, Page and Reace.