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Colorado hired D.J. Eliot as it's new defensive coordinator on Thursday.
Courtesy photo / University of Kentucky
Colorado hired D.J. Eliot as it’s new defensive coordinator on Thursday.

If Colorado football fans were hoping for a “home run hire” with the introduction of a new defensive coordinator, Thursday had to have felt like a bloop single.

Yeah, the hiring of D.J. Eliot fills a need, but it didn’t exactly spark a celebration among the Buffaloes’ faithful.

After all, Eliot’s only coordinator experience came in four seasons at Kentucky that could be labeled somewhere between disappointing and mediocre.

With Eliot, 40, running the Kentucky defense the past four years, the Wildcats annually ranked near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference – and in the bottom third of the country – in points and yards allowed.

On the surface, he seems like an odd choice to take over a CU defense that ranked among the top 20 in the country and played a major role in the Buffs’ resurgent, 10-4 season that included a Pac-12 South championship.

For this hire, however, give CU head coach Mike MacIntyre and athletic director Rick George the benefit of the doubt. They’ve earned it.

Two years ago, the Buffs had one of the worst defenses in the country. They moved on from Kent Baer and tabbed Jim Leavitt as the man to turn things around.

In two years, Leavitt turned CU’s defense into one of the best in the country.

Also that offseason, MacIntyre hired Joe Tumpkin to coach the Buffs’ safeties, and he’s done a great job with his position group. (Tumpkin is currently facing legal issues that have his future at CU in doubt, but football-wise, it’s been a great hire).

A year ago, MacIntyre and George hired Darrin Chiaverini as co-offensive coordinator, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. That may go down as the best hire of MacIntyre’s tenure, as Chiaverini has not only brought a fire to the team, but he’s been an ace recruiter.

The hiring of strength coach Drew Wilson last January was critical, as well. He’s been very popular among the players, who credit him for making them stronger and in better shape over the past 12 months.

Also a year ago, MacIntyre shifted running backs coach Klayton Adams to coaching the offensive line and promoted Darian Hagan to running backs coach. Both moves breathed life in those position groups.

Under Adams’ direction, the offensive line was vastly improved this past season. Junior running back Phillip Lindsay was one of the Pac-12’s top play-makers on offense, and he credits Hagan for making him a better player.

Will the hiring of Eliot produce the same positive results? Only time will tell, but it’s a move that probably shouldn’t be judged for a while.

The reality is, replacing Leavitt was going to be a tough task for anyone.

While Leavitt was given a ton of credit for CU’s resurgence, it can’t be ignored that he inherited a group of players that were not only talented, but experienced. In 2016, the Buffs featured eight senior starters on defense, all of which were multi-year starters.

Eliot may be coming in at a perfect time, considering the amount of turnover on defense.

In addition to replacing Leavitt and eight starters, the Buffs are also in the market for a cornerbacks coach, and, depending on how Tumpkin’s situation plays out, they could be looking for a safeties coach, as well.

CU’s defense will have talent – led by linebackers Rick Gamboa, Addison Gillam and Derek McCartney, safeties Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller and cornerback Isaiah Oliver – but it needs time to grow.

Eliot may be a good fit on the CU staff, too. Reporters who covered him in Lexington described him as organized and detail-oriented and he appears to have a personality that will mesh well with MacIntyre.

Eliot’s hire isn’t a home run and it actually has left some fans disappointed, but MacIntyre’s track record suggests it just might work out.

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

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