After just one season at Notre Dame, defensive coordinator Mike Elko will leave the Irish to accept the same position with Texas A&M.
“We appreciate [Elko’s] work and effort over the last year with our program and wish him the best moving forward,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement shortly after the first reports of Elko’s decision Thursday afternoon. “Notre Dame simply attracts people at the top of their profession, and, with a young and talented football team coming back in 2018, we’ll certainly add our next great defensive coordinator in very short order.”
Elko was rumored to be in conversations with Aggies newly-hired head coach Jimbo Fisher, recently of Florida State, the week before the Citrus Bowl on Monday, but Kelly said he expected Elko to be with the Irish coaching staff next season, seemingly ending any concerns. When Texas A&M’s pursuit of LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda ended with Aranda receiving a hefty raise from LSU, Fisher’s focus apparently returned to Elko. The Associated Press’s Ralph Russo reported Elko will likely receive a contract similar to Aranda’s, which reportedly included $10 million guaranteed.
“I am excited to bring one of the top defensive minds in the nation onto our staff here at Texas A&M,” Fisher said in a statement. “No matter where Mike has worked, he has consistently produced defenses that have been among the nation’s best.”
Elko came to the Irish after three seasons at Wake Forest. His one season with Notre Dame can be considered only a successful stint. The Irish held opponents to 21.5 points and 369.2 yards per game, forced 20 turnovers and recorded 24 sacks. A year ago, opponents managed 27.8 points and 378.8 yards per game while offering up only 14 turnovers and getting sacked 14 times.
The most notable individual improvement under Elko came from senior linebacker Drue Tranquill. Finally in a position that fit him, Tranquill recorded 85 tackles including 10.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks, one interception and three fumbles recovered.
The first guess for Elko’s replacement may be current Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston, who also interviewed for the job in the offseason.
UPDATE: Yahoo’s Pete Thamel reported further details about Elko’s deal at Texas A&M.
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