Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced this week that former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko has been hired in the same role for the Fighting Irish. He replaces Brian VanGorder, who was fired after last year’s 1-3 start.
Elko helped Wake Forest reach its first bowl game since 2011 with a defense that ranked among national leaders.
“Mike does a lot of things that are hard to decipher, but easily taught,” Kelly said. “He does an incredibly efficient job at communicating what he’s teaching.”
Wake Forest, ranked 40th in the nation in total defense, racked up some impressive numbers last season. The Demon Deacons were third in fumbles recovered, 10th in turnovers forced, 12th in sacks, 17th in defensive touchdowns, 17th in red-zone defense and 20th in scoring defense.
Elko, an Ivy Leaguer as a linebacker at Penn, isn’t some new kid on the block either. This marks his 12th year as a defensive coordinator.
He was first named a defensive coordinator at the green age of 29 at Hofstra. He spent three years at the Long Island school before joining Dave Clawson at Bowling Green State in the Mid-American Conference to serve as his coordinator for five seasons. Then he followed Clawson to Wake Forest in the ACC for the past three.
Notre Dame has seven returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive linemen are senior senior Andrew Trumbetti and junior Jerry Tillery. The linebackers are senior Nyles Morgan and junior Te’von Coney. The secondary includes sophomore cornerback Julian Love, senior safety Drue Tranquill and sophomore Devin Studstill.
That unit, which had slipped to 103rd in total defense, finished the year ranked 40th with Hudson and Kelly coaching it. The Irish have four 4-star recruits and three 3-star recruits and behind them sit 5-star defensive end Daelin Hayes and 4-star defensive end Khalid Kareem.
At Wake Forest, the only 4-star recruit dating back to 2012 was quarterback Kyle Kearns in the Class of 2015. Elko worked his magic with 3-star and 2-star players, while also coaching up walk-ons. Putting him in one of the most popular schools in the country should work wonders for the Fighting Irish.