Eliot joins Stoops to bolster football defense

By Alex Forkner | Football Columnist

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When Mark Stoops hired D.J. Eliot as UK’s new defensive coordinator, the two were already well acquainted.

Eliot served as defensive ends coach under Stoops at Florida State University from 2010-2012. Before that, they coached together at University of Miami (Fla.), University of Houston and University of Wyoming. At Wyoming, Stoops coached the defensive backs while Eliot played linebacker.

During their various stops, the two converted defenses from struggling to staunch. Before their arrival at FSU, the Seminoles were 108th in total defense.

By 2012, FSU ranked second in total defense (254.1 yards per game) and sixth in scoring defense (14.7 points per game).

Eliot, now a first time coordinator, has his work cut out for him in Lexington. UK ranked 59th nationally in total defense last season, but was dead last in 3rd-down defense, as well as 113th in turnovers forced.

What’s the biggest adjustment for Eliot so far?

“Well, I guess instead of being responsible for eight guys, being responsible for about 30-something guys,” Eliot said. “Just managing and being responsible for the entire defense has been a big change.”

Though Eliot is now overseeing the entire defensive unit, he will rely on a defensive line laden with upperclassmen, including seniors Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble on the interior, and junior Bud Dupree and junior college transfer Za’Darius Smith on the ends.

“I’ve coached on different teams where you had different strengths, but having four good defensive linemen is important,” Eliot said. You don’t have to cover somebody if they sack them, you know what I mean? So it goes a long ways.”

Eliot’s defense will mostly manifest as a 4-3, but he recently said he would employ the use of 3-4 and nickel packages in certain situations.

In his first season at UK, Eliot will have to handle a young back seven, a daunting schedule and a host of Heisman contenders to defend. And Eliot plans to take the season step by step.

“Well, the process is day-to-day,” Eliot said. “It’s not just the game. So we work on what we have to work on that day and then we evaluate ourselves on that day. We are concentrating on the process and not the outcome.”