Inside the Irish

Official: Mike Elko named defensive coordinator

Notre Dame has officially hired Mike Elko as their defensive coordinator. The university made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, with Elko joining the program from Wake Forest.

Head coach Brian Kelly gave the following comment in a prepared statement:

 

“Mike has consistently coordinated defenses that keep the points down, negate big plays, creative negative plays, excel in the red zone and, quite simply, force opposing offenses to execute at an extremely high level to move the football. This rare combination of consistent success in those facets of defense, along with a proven ability to develop talent and fit it into his system, really places Mike in a class by himself among defensive coordinators across the country.

“As importantly, Mike’s commitment to helping young men reach their full potential in the classroom and in the community make him a perfect fit for Notre Dame.”

The 39-year-old defensive coordinator was Kelly’s choice to reboot an Irish defense left in disarray after Brian VanGorder was fired in late September, but one that also rallied under the guidance of interim coordinator Greg Hudson and linebackers coach Mike Elston, who also interviewed for the position.

Wake Forest had a Top 25 defense under Elko, finishing No. 20 in scoring defense this season as the Demon Deacons finished the year 6-6 and went to its first bowl game since 2011. He came to Winston-Salem with head coach Dave Clawson, serving as his defensive coordinator at Bowling Green, and had many stops along the way after playing his football at Penn.

Elko made the following statement:

“I’m excited to join a program with the prestige of Notre Dame that can recruit the nation’s highest caliber of student-athlete and compete for a national championship. We hope to dictate the pace of the game with an attacking and aggressive style defense, mix physicality and toughness with exceptional fundamentals and, lastly, play with great effort at all times. I can’t wait to dive in and help these players achieve the standard of success necessary to win at the highest level.”

While he might not have been a big-name candidate, Elko’s hiring has received near unanimous approval, with SI’s Pete Thamel deeming Elko one of the hottest defensive coordinator prospects in the country with interest from multiple Power 5 schools. A profile of Elko’s from the South Bend Tribune should be required reading for those looking to learn more about Notre Dame’s new coach, with Elko’s football acumen obvious, even as a player.

Elko is one of just two defensive coordinators to have a Top 40 defense in each of the last seasons. His task will now be to transform an Irish defense that badly needs a pass rush and must continue to develop young players like Daelin Hayes, Julian Love, Troy Pride, Devin Studstill and Donte Vaughn.