While the overall results produced by D.J. Eliot’s defense at Kentucky weren’t great, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has a strong belief in Eliot’s ability to succeed in Boulder.
On Monday, MacIntyre said the addition of Eliot as defensive coordinator will help the Buffaloes to keep momentum going on defense after ranking among the top 20 in the country this past season.
“I’m real excited about D.J.,” MacIntyre said. “It’s the same scheme he was running at Kentucky and he understands it tremendously, so it’ll be a great fit for us.
“I’ve known him for a while, so I’m excited that we could lure him away from an SEC school to come here.”
Under former coordinator Jim Leavitt, who left the Buffs for Oregon in December, CU ran a 3-4 base defense and became one of the top units in the Pac-12.
While Leavitt is gone and eight starters have graduated, MacIntyre made it a point of keeping the same scheme in place.
“It was very important for me to get someone that runs the scheme that I put in with Jim (Leavitt) when he was here and that we kept that,” MacIntyre said. “We recruited to it and we’ve done it, and I wanted someone that understood how to do that.”
Throughout his career, Eliot, 40, has been regarded as a solid recruiter and he’s done well as a position coach with linebackers.
As coordinator, Eliot’s defenses at Kentucky struggled, ranking 86th or worse nationally in points allowed in three of his four seasons with the Wildcats. They did have a solid year in 2015, but got off to a bad start this past season. After two poor games to open the season, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops took over defensive play-calling duties. The Wildcats went 7-3 the rest of the regular season and ended a six-year bowl drought.
MacIntyre said Eliot will call the defensive plays at CU.
“Oh yeah, he’s calling it all,” MacIntyre said. “He’s running it and doing it, for sure.”
A former defensive coordinator himself, MacIntyre said he will be “very involved” in the defense, but no different than he was before, and no different than the involvement he has on offense and special teams.
“I’m a hands-on guy all the way around,” he said. “I let (assistants) do their stuff, but I’m not a stand-around coach.”
Despite the change in leadership and the loss of several starters, MacIntyre is confident the Buffs will continue to succeed on defense.
“We had some excellent football players last year that were primed and ready to be good when Jim got here, and we have some really good players coming back, so I feel good about our defense in the future, too,” he said.
While the Buffs are in the stretch run of recruiting, with national signing day coming up on Feb. 1, MacIntyre is also in the process of hiring a new cornerbacks coach to replace Charles Clark, who followed Leavitt to Oregon.
“I’ve been interviewing a couple of different people and trying to work through it and try to do recruiting and all of that at the same time,” he said. “I wanted to get our coordinator in place and then let him talk with some of the people I’ve talked to also.”
As of Monday, MacIntyre said he had not completely narrowed down his list of candidates.
“We’ve talked to quite a few guys and there’s a ton of people that are very interested,” he said. “We just have to make sure we get the right fit for who we want and how we want to do it.”
In April, the NCAA Division I council will vote on a proposal that would allow Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams to add a 10th assistant coach to the staff. If that passes, MacIntyre said, “I would hire a person that would be able to do special teams.” The Buffs coached special teams by committee this past season and MacIntyre said the staff would stay involved with special teams, regardless of the April vote. … Running back Dino Gordon has been dismissed from the team, and MacIntyre said linebacker Christian Shaver will not return this next season. Offensive linemen John Lisella and Colin Sutton will also not return, as they plan to graduate early. … The recent departures, combined with the addition of several JUCO and high school early enrollees, have the Buffs at 68 scholarship players this spring.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.