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Report: Notre Dame to promote Clark Lea to defensive coordinator

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Notre Dame will replace former defensive coordinator Mike Elko from within, according to a report from Yahoo.com’s Pete Thamel.

Lea joined Irish coach Brian Kelly’s staff along with Elko last offseason, coming from a season as the linebackers coach at Wake Forest learning Elko’s scheme. Lea had previously spent the 2012 season in the same capacity when Elko was defensive coordinator at Bowling Green.

In turning to Lea, Notre Dame will maintain the momentum its defense built this season, sticking with a 4—2.5—4.5 system, considering the rover as half-linebacker, half-safety. That rover role led to senior Drue Tranquill’s breakout this season.

Lea also played a part in junior linebacker Te’von Coney’s emergence. In not only keeping Lea from following Elko to Texas A&M but also promoting him, Kelly cannot hurt the chances of Coney returning for his senior season rather than head to the NFL. To a lesser extent, the same likely applies to junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery.

Lea should also be to continue the pursuit of a few more recruits before the Feb. 7 signing day, namely consensus four-star safety Julius Irvin (Servite High School; Anaheim, Calif.) and consensus four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu (Mater Dei H.S.; Anaheim, Calif.). Notre Dame has three spots to fill in the class of 2018.

If Lea is indeed hired as the Irish defensive coordinator, he and Kelly will presumably look to add a safeties coach to complete the staff and replace that piece of Elko’s expertise, especially considering the work needed at that position moving forward for the defense to be a complete unit in 2018.