LEXINGTON – D.J. Eliot, who played a key role in the dramatic defensive turnaround at Florida State under Mark Stoops, has joined Stoops’ Kentucky staff as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, the new UK head coach announced Thursday.
“D.J. is one of the brightest young minds in college football,” Stoops, who has coached with Eliot at Wyoming, Houston, Miami (Fla.) and FSU, said in a UK news release. “He has a relentless work ethic and is extremely detailed. I’m very pleased he has joined the Big Blue Nation.”
Eliot coached defensive ends the last three seasons at Florida State. He recently completed his 15th season of collegiate coaching, helping lead FSU to one of the best defensive campaigns in school history en route to an 11-2 record, the championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference and a berth in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
The year before Eliot and Stoops arrived in Tallahassee, the Seminoles ranked 108th in total defense and rushing defense, 58th in quarterback sacks and 61st in tackles for loss nationally. This season, FSU ranks second nationally in total defense (253.8 yards per game), fifth in rushing defense (93 ypg) and seventh in scoring defense (15.1 points per game). 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 have had outstanding individual achievements.
Bjoern Werner has 13 sacks this season, leading the ACC and ranking second nationally in total sacks. Werner has been named first-team All-America and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Brandon Jenkins earned All-ACC honors in 2010 and ’11 before sustaining a season-ending injury in the 2012 season opener.
After Jenkins’ injury, Cornellius “Tank” Carradine went from FSU backup to joining Werner as first-team All-ACC. He has 11 sacks this season, second in the ACC behind his teammate, and 14th nationally.
Under Eliot’s guidance, Markus White had a breakout season in 2010 and is currently in his third season in the National Football League.
Werner and Carradine form 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 helping limit opponents to just 2.35 yards per carry, which led the nation in that category. All three players are projected as high picks in the NFL Draft. In Eliot’s first season at Florida State, the Seminoles 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 for the Cowboys. 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 worked as a graduate assistant for the Cougars. Eliot remained at Houston through 2001 before rejoining Stoops in 2002 at Miami (Fla.) in his final season as a graduate assistant. The two helped lead the Canes to a 12-1 record and an appearance 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 (now Football Championship Subdivision). Eliot coached the defensive backs his first season at Texas State and the linebackers his final two seasons.
Eliot helped lead a defensive turnaround at Texas State. In his first season on the job, TSU gave up 34.8 points per game, 394.6 yards per game and 191.3 rushing yards per game. Two years later in Eliot’s final season with the Bobcats, TSU 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. In his one season 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 an NFL career and is currently a member of the New Orleans Saints.
Before his successful stint at Florida State, 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 he helped guide the Owls to a 10-3 record and a victory in 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 all 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 the Tennessee Titans and Ozougwu with the Chicago Bears.
“I’m very excited with the opportunity to coach at Kentucky and continue to work with Coach Stoops,” Eliot said. “I believe in the potential of UK and look forward to being on this staff.”
A native of Edmond, Okla., Eliot graduated from Wyoming in 1999 with a degree in natural science with a minor in zoology. 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.